It seems some people who are subscribed to THIS blog never subscribed to the NEW blog and are looking for posts – not that there have been a lot… (and I know maybe some of you just didn’t want to follow the new one and that’s fine, too)…BUT if you want to be notified of new posts – please make sure to enter your email address at www.mexijenn.site (over to the left of the screen) – as I am no longer posting here (just this special one-time…).
I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is starting off 2017 happy and healthy.
In the meantime–
Please enjoy my latest video creation – snorkeling the sunken Jesus statue in Las Gatas beach in Zihuatanejo. That song was playing in my head the entire time, and well, I couldn’t NOT make this video. Jonny and I just spent some great time together aboard SUMMER. Real blog. Soon. Really! For now:
I’m making CALENDARS! I know, I should have thought of this a couple of months ago. But here it is. Who wants a 2017 Calendar? They will be $19.95 which includes mailing to you (in the continental US only–more for elsewhere). Next year I will start early and make different themes (sunsets, sea critters, etc).
Please email me soon and let me know if you want one! Supplies are limited…
I’ve been working on a new blog and I am almost ready to post something a little more substantial about this interesting new life in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Please visit now and sign up if you would like to be part of the new blog – www.mexijenn.site
That’s right. It’s “.site” not .com or .net – it’s a new web suffix (either that or a really unpopular one), and it was only 95 cents, how could I resist?
Same deal as this blog – you’ll only get emails when a new post is up. I won’t be posting here anymore. Hope to see you in the new spot:
While we were hanging out at anchor in Playa La Ropa, looking forward to Prism’s arrival, discussions transpired that have now caused the more private parts of our life to force their way into this public blog space. A number of things simply weren’t working out for us. Our goals and ideas of how to spend the next six months were just not jiving and a variety of pre-sailing issues we never quite found the time to resolve were reaching their expiration date. It was extremely difficult and I’m sure Zihua bay is a lot saltier after our talks, but after nearly nine years together, we decided to part ways. I would stay in Zihuatanejo and Jonny and Summer would head north for hurricane season. Perhaps they will return to Zihua in the winter. Perhaps not.
Land-based relationships are hard enough, but boat-based relationships have many added layers of difficulty. As John Kretschmer said in Sailing a Serious Ocean: “To thrive at sea, you must be responsible for who you are, not who you want to be” and I’d say it goes the other way, too – we must be responsible for seeing each other for who we are and not who we want the other person to be. But living a cruising lifestyle was not the reason for this turn of events, but rather the catalyst. The decision to end a boat-based relationship is also many times more complicated- the logistics alone are mind-boggling.
We were able to have some very productive conversations about what we wanted and needed, and how to handle my departure from the boat. Me leaving the boat was kind of a given – I am not interested in or (probably) capable of single-handing. Jonny is extremely capable of handling Summer by himself, and as he began to think about it, became intrigued with the challenge of it all. I was really liking Zihuatanejo and could see myself staying for a while – getting to know the place and its people (not to mention I was simply flat out done with GOING so frequently). The fact that we are still equal owners of Summer is something we’ve put off dealing with for the moment.
I spent a day looking into land-based living opportunities (otherwise known as “apartments”). I had a few places I’d found online that I wanted to look into. But of course I got hopelessly lost trying to find the first place and ended up in a really cute little neighborhood. I saw signs for furnished apartments on some very nice looking places. I figured it was way out of my league, but since I was there, I’d at least have a look and try to get a baseline of prices. The first place I looked at was called Villa Encantada and a nice woman answered the bell at the locked gate and let me in to have a look. There were six units – all quite similar, with furnishings and cookware and nice big, tiled showers with skylight, kitchen, bedroom, huge closet, fridge/freezer, table/chairs, hot water, air conditioning, wifi and cable TV all included –and someone comes and cleans every week. The second floor units open onto a large, lovely shaded patio with hammocks, table and plants. She gave me the prices in pesos, which in my stupor I was not able to compute what that meant until I had left, although I assumed it was far too much. It was actually surprisingly affordable! I could hardly believe it. I felt like I’d hit a home run my first time at bat, like this was IT. But knowing better, I spent the rest of the day looking at around seven other places. Many of them cost far more and were simply windowless hotel rooms in far less desirable neighborhoods.
I told Jonny about my find, and he agreed I should nail it down the next day. Not that there is any competition – we’re going into the slow season, where it’s so hot here no one wants stay. I went back for a look the next day and brought Jonny. He gave it the thumbs up and I liked it still, so I put down a deposit. Unlike places in the US, I didn’t have to show any identification, fill out any paperwork, state my income, give references…I just paid my deposit, gave a move in date and got a receipt. I happened to mention something about renting a car to move my things over, and Adriana, my new landlady, told me she knew a guy with a truck who helps people move. She gave me Carlos’ number and I managed to arrange for him to help me move (all in Spanish!).
In order to get all my stuff off the boat in any reasonable way, we needed to be in a marina. One of the reasons Zihua was an acceptable choice for this decision was the fact there is a mostly-affordable marina in nearby Ixtapa. I arranged for 3 nights in the marina, allowing 2 days for moving things off. Packing on a boat isn’t really something you can do ahead of time, as there’s no place to put anything. It was going to have to be a “move it onto the dock as it’s ready and take it away” kind of operation. I wanted not to have to go too fast – since once it was done, it wasn’t like either of us could just pop over to the other’s to bring something forgotten. I wanted to be able to think things through and make sure we both had what we needed. With our plan ready to set in motion, all we had to do was pull up anchor and leave Zihua bay for the marina. When that time came, we were both paralyzed a bit. We had to take a time-out for a reality check. My last time sailing Summer out of an anchorage. It felt pretty serious and sad. I was wiping away tears as we waved our goodbyes to Prism and Oleada and headed out of the bay.
Less than ten miles away, Ixtapa marina is a tricky place to get into. They only open the harbor for an hour per day (and before 7am and after 6pm) and the rest of the time it is blocked with dredging equipment. There were very nearly breaking waves at the entrance and it was one of the scariest experiences, surfing these waves into this narrow, shallow harbor. We made it through just fine and stopped at a sidedock in order to locate our slip. It was quite windy and as I pulled down the fairway towards our slip, we got blown a little to the left. I didn’t notice right away as I was looking for our slip on the right. I looked up just in time to see a mega yacht was sticking out too far beyond its slip – and there was a huge anchor hanging off the bow. I realized we were going to hit it if I didn’t do something immediately – I turned sharply to starboard and revved the motor. Jonny looked up just after that to see what was happening and started freaking out. The anchor just cleared our rigging and was bearing down on our solar arch. Jonny pushed on it with all his might and it cleared our stainless arch with mere millimeters and then scraped up the side of our dinghy motor that was mounted on the stern rail. Needless to say, aside from the emotional trauma I was already experiencing, this harrowing experience quite nearly pushed me over the edge. And of course Jonny was livid and ready to kill me. We barely had a second to catch our breath when we discovered that a huge powerboat was taking up more than half of the double slip we were supposed to go into (it wasn’t there when we first located the slip!). There was definitely not enough room for me to squeeze into that slip. Luckily the slip next to it was open, so we pulled in there. That’s when the real chaos ensued.
Ok try to bear with me on this one. When I went online to book the marina, I went to the Marina Ixtapa website. I made a reservation with “Marina Ixtapa” and received email confirmation from “Marina Ixtapa”. When we pulled into this other slip, we were informed that it was Marina Ixtapa’s slip, which sounded right, right? Not right, the slip I had a reservation for was for some other marina and that marina only had this one slip on the dock. It was very confusing. I went to the office of Marina Ixtapa and was informed that THEIR website was actually “Ixtapa Marina” not “Marina Ixtapa”, even though it’s called “Marina Ixtapa” and the Marina Ixtapa website actually belongs to a company called “Performance Yachts”, and even though neither their website, nor their emails say anything about Performance Yachts–that’s where I’d made the reservation. Marina Ixtapa would have been happy to rent me this other slip…for about 25% more money. No, I was not crying yet, but my head almost exploded.
I trudged back down the hot concrete to the far side of the marina where Performance Yachts office was located. I sat down to patiently, grateful for the air conditioning, and awaited my turn while they were checking in another guy. As it turned out Performance Yachts had a number of slips on the opposite side of the harbor – not near a parking lot or road. They had only 3 slips interspersed into Marina Ixtapa’s (the REAL Marina Ixtapa) side of the harbor – which is where the showers, restaurants, parking, and shops are. While I was still waiting, a couple came in very upset. They were loudly complaining about how they did not want the slip they were given, it was too far from everything (and he had bad knees!). They started making a big stink and were very angry, and speaking only English to the office woman. They were insisting they get into one of the slips closeby. I realized they had basically “cut” me in line, and I was really in no mood for that sort of thing…. So I stood up and said, as politely as I could muster, “I was waiting here first and I would appreciate being taken care of first”. Thankfully the couple backed off and stepped aside apologetically. I spoke to the office woman (Maria) in Spanish and explained there was a large powerboat in our slip and we couldn’t fit. She made it clear that the powerboat was not going to move (no explanation, just no –I realized later it was probably because it was Marina Ixtapa’s slip and they had no control) and my only option was to go to a farther out slip. We were all huddled over a giant blueprint of the marina – I asked if cars could get near to those slips out there and she said no. I explained to her that I was moving off my boat and needed to have access to the moving truck. She finally took me by the arm and brought me outside and pointed to a HUGE slip right by the front gate – it was one of theirs that she had just told the other people they could not have – before I stepped up to claim my turn. I believe she did me a great kindness and I also believe it was my speaking Spanish (albeit poorly) that caused her to do so. Feeling somewhat relieved, I went back to the boat to try to explain everything to a hot, angry and unhappy captain. We needed to move the boat and he did not want to. The dock guards were giving us pressure to move the boat anyway since we were not in a slip we were going to pay for (and no, I was not willing to pay more – and we were not sharing this expense). We went and looked at the slip again and Jonny finally agreed to move there. He was completely certain I was going to do something horrible backing out of the slip, but I managed to keep my cool and do a perfect job backing out and then docking in the new slip (did I mention it was huge?).
It was a strange, hard, hot, unpleasant and just plain weird few days. My mover, Carlos showed up right on time – he even called when he was ten minutes away to say he was ten minutes away. He and his friend quickly took my pathetic load of stuff to the little Toyota with tall slatted sides. We crammed in the front with Carlos while his helper rode in back with my stuff and we arrived at my new place in no time flat. They quickly unloaded and we agreed when to meet the following day for the rest of it. Just 300 pesos each day ($17) was a great bargain for all their help – it saved me from renting a car, which would’ve cost a fortune – and I didn’t have to go to the airport to get it and drive in scary, unfamiliar traffic (I still can’t figure out how the lights work when cars get to turn left from the right lanes…)
After leaving my stuff, we headed to the Port Captain’s office to get me removed from the official crew list. It may or may not be a big deal, but if Jonny were to leave the country and officially check out, they would look at the crew list and possibly wonder where I was (and maybe suspect foul play?). It was a process, but eventually we came out with a signed and stamped official new crew list, sans me. We took the bus back to Ixtapa for my last night aboard Summer. We had a walk on the beautiful Ixtapa beach near the marina and returned to the boat for dinner. Sadly, my cooking skills are closely aligned with my emotional state. I made a terrible dinner and we had an otherwise usual night.
The next day of packing – all my galley stuff – was overwhelming and extremely difficult. But I persevered and Jonny was helpful in finding some much needed boxes. Carlos and friend showed up right on time again and took the last load (which I’d promised would be less than the first, but I may have been wrong about that).
I got things a bit organized in the new place and we showered and went out for a nicer-than-usual dinner. It was sad and strange and we tried to keep conversation light. We stayed the night in my new place and went out for breakfast in my new neighborhood. My fridge was bare and I probably would’ve ruined anything I tried to cook anyway. Jonny needed to load up with provisions before taking off, which he figured would be quite soon. We did a little walkabout my neighborhood on the way to the big grocery story. I happened to find the immigration office right around the corner – I would need that later. I helped Jonny shop for provisions and then we took a taxi back to Ixtapa (originally I was going to rent a car and do this as part of the deal, but paying for a taxi was still cheaper even after having Carlos help me). I had a few last things to carry back with me and wanted to say my final goodbye to Summer.
Back aboard Summer, suddenly everything got very real. I had no idea I could cry so much. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Luckily, I had items in my bags needing refrigeration, otherwise who knows how long that scene would’ve gone on. Jonny walked me out and we had a final tearful goodbye as I got on the bus back to Zihua.
I only had a couple days before my planned departure to the U.S. I wanted to get a temporary resident visa – which would allow me to stay in Mexico for up to four years. Not that I necessarily plan to do that, but the six month tourist visa was getting really annoying- having to leave every six months was really inconvenient and expensive. To get the temporary resident visa, it was necessary to begin the process in the U.S. It also was a great opportunity to visit with my parents and get me a little much-needed family love. So – yeah -In the midst of all the moving/changes, I was also arranging the tickets to the US, making an appointment at the consulate in Boston and preparing the application and documents and getting photos taken that I needed for the consulate appointment. Just to keep things interesting…
The morning before my trip was overcast and cooler. A thought occurred to me that I haven’t been able to have for quite some time – it’s a perfect morning for a bike ride! I was out of bed uncharacteristically early and ready to ride. Unfortunately my bike was not. I spent about an hour or so unfolding it and trying to pump up the dead flat tires. But I finally got it and I was off to explore. I decided to try to find the road to Playa La Ropa and see the land-side of what we had been looking at from anchor for so long. I also knew that Summer would be out in the anchorage and I couldn’t resist seeing her again. It was quite hilly and I went down a lot of side roads that were not what I was looking for. My super out of shape body was seriously out of breath, but it felt good to be doing cardio exercise again. I finally found what I was looking for. I locked up my bike and wandered down along the roadway by the rocks and beach. There was Summer. How strange to be seeing her from this perspective.
I texted Jonny and he ended up paddling over in the dinghy to say hi, and throw me some rocks I had forgotten (or maybe he just wanted to throw rocks at me?). It was too rough for him to land, so I sat on the jetty and he paddled back and forth for a bit. It was good to talk again without so many emotions happening. He had clearly done a fine job leaving the marina and anchoring by himself.
I managed to arrange for a cab to pick me up the next day and take me to the airport. My driver – another punctual Carlos, showed up right on time and I was on my way. I was looking forward to an uneventful trip, but was stopped short at check in. They asked me to turn in my visa (which they always do) and they looked at it (which they never do) and noticed my visa was stamped with a little car because I got it when we came in via bus back in November. I didn’t understand why, but they wouldn’t give me my boarding pass until I went to immigration. Immigration wanted to see my receipt for the visa. I said I didn’t have the receipt, as it was nearly 6 months old…but I had the visa. That wasn’t good enough and they said I had to pay for it again. I knew that was ridiculous, so I kept asking why. They said to prove I paid for the visa. But I HAVE the visa, how would I have this visa if I hadn’t paid for it??? We went round and round like that for a quite some time. Finally some other guy came in and sat down and explained to me that coming in via car (or bus, in my case) it was possible to get a visa for free for just 7 days. But my visa said 180 days on it. We were simply getting nowhere and I had absolutely zero bargaining power. I was not going to get my boarding passes until these folks put a stamp with a little airplane on my visa and they were not going to do it without me paying them 390 p (nearly $25). I was pissed, but I paid. I got my little stamp. And a receipt. And finally, my boarding passes.
I was flying into Boston with just a short layover in Houston. I had to go through customs and almost missed my connection – sprinting about a mile through the Houston airport had not been on my agenda for that day. So much for getting something for dinner. When I finally got on the plane, out of breath and sweating, just at they were closing the doors, the flight attendant looked at me and said “Would you like a glass of water right now?” If I wasn’t so sweaty I would’ve hugged her. I arrived late at night and called the hotel to be sure a shuttle would come for me. When the hotel clerk asked my phone number I mentioned it was a Mexican number. He laughed like a moron and said “huh huh! I never heard that one! That sounds funny to me!”. Ummmmm. Okaaaay. The shuttle arrived and I finally got to the hotel after 1:00 am – and had to wait while aforementioned moron (who appeared to be cast perfectly for the role) completed whatever game he was playing on his cellphone before checking me in.
For the few short hours I had at the hotel, I probably should’ve just slept at the airport! When I saw the final bill, I realized I could stay at my new place for a whole week AND buy groceries for that week for the same amount of money. Welcome back to the US of A!
I had to take the 8:00am (felt like 7:00am) free hotel shuttle back to the airport (with all my stuff, and I had a very large bag of winter clothes I was bringing back to leave) to then take a free bus to South Station and then walk to the Mexican Consulate. My alternative was a $50 cab ride from hotel, so I chose this free option. The cold. The cranky white folk. The getting mildly lost and there being no one to ask (even though it would’ve been in English). I may have been experiencing culture shock along with my sleep deprivation. Anyway, I ditched my heavy bag at a place in South Station (for $5.00- yikes) and was able to walk the half mile to the consulate. More cold. More grumpy looking white folk. Oppressively tall buildings. I guess I’m not much of a city girl anymore (was I ever?). Miraculously, I managed not to get lost (thanks phone maps!). I finally turned a corner and saw the Mexican flag and felt relief wash over me. Walking into the office, where all the signs were in Spanish and relaxed people were waiting their turns, somehow I felt I belonged there – as much as I surely didn’t look like I did…
I was twenty minutes early for my appointment, but one of the clerks took me right away. He looked through all the paperwork (I was told to bring 6 mos. worth of bank statements, a photocopy of my passport, a passport size photo and an application form filled out). He had me sit back in the chair and took another photo of me. He took everything and said he had to show it to the Consulate General; she may or may not have questions for me and I was to wait. I waited probably ten minutes and another clerk called me over and handed me my passport, which now had a special green visa sticker with my photo on it, stuck to one of the pages. They also gave me a tourist visa good for only 30 days from the time I entered Mexico – and I had six months time to enter Mexico. I took everything and left. I went back and got my stuff and lugged it all to the bus station (which was not exactly IN South Station as I’d thought) and went to New Hampshire to see my parents.
It all happened so fast – it wasn’t until I was gone that I realized I hadn’t paid the $36 fee. The next day I got an email from the consulate about that (clearly they’d made a mistake and were very sheepish about it). I called on the phone and was able to pay via credit card. I asked to be emailed a receipt – after the debacle with the exit/tourist visa at the airport, I wasn’t taking any chances. I explained that situation when he questioned why I wanted a receipt, since I had the visa. He said that was very strange and should not have happened at the airport, because you can’t get a visa without paying for it. Right, I know! BUT…not to be a jerk, didn’t I just get the visa from you without paying for it? ha ha ha (he didn’t really laugh along with me on that one).
I had a good week being spoiled by my parents, sleeping (or trying to), eating and taking care of business. It felt strange to be there – especially since it snowed on my first day. They had promised me that was all overwith! While it was nice to be away and in familiar surroundings, it also felt a little strange. I had a lot of new-ness to adapt to and I was suddenly transported to a whole lot of old-ness. I was anxious and a bit restless to get on with things. And even though everything was so familiar to me, I felt like I was seeing it all as a stranger from out of town.
I had a very early fight from Boston, so rather than my parents getting up hours before the crack of dawn to drive me, we decided on another hotel near the airport (a cheaper one this time!). Rather than go and spend an afternoon in Boston, we opted to take a trip to Portsmouth – a smaller, low-key town – and one where I lived my last year in college. It was a rainy, cold day, but we poked around, and had coffee and hot chocolate and a cozy bookstore café. Then we went out for the most amazing dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water. I had the best clam chowder of my life (bacon: always the secret ingredient) and an amazing lobster (lobstah) sushi roll.
They dropped me at the hotel and we said our goodbyes. I don’t think I slept a wink the entire night – such a strange mix of things running through my head. At least I didn’t miss the 5:00 am shuttle.
I got back to Zihuatanejo with few problems and it felt like a relief when I was finally in a cab on my way ‘home’. Jonny still hadn’t left – no good weather windows opened up. The next afternoon he came over to pick up a few things I’d brought back for him. We spent the afternoon together, went out for lunch and had a final joint shopping trip. We shared a cab back and had a quick goodbye when the cab dropped me off first. It seemed really rushed, but probably for the best so we didn’t end up with another prolonged cry-fest.
The next day Summer disappeared from Zihuatanejo bay and I found myself completely alone in this charming town, south of the border, down Mexico way. I’m very sad not to be on the water and my boat / home. But I’m sure this new land life will conjure up some adventures. Terrifyingly exciting.
So, I guess this concludes the “Summer Sails” portion of my blog. This started as a simple way to keep family and friends updated, and has grown to a surprisingly large number of subscribers. I’m sorry if I’ve let anyone down. There’s lots of great sailing blogs going on still (Prism, Orion, Resolute and Wahkuna to name a few). I am considering if I will continue to write about my new trials and tribulations in a “Mexi-Jenn” blog. We’ll see how the inspiration flows once the dust settles – I’ll keep you posted. Thanks to everyone for following along and all the great support – I’m so very appreciative and grateful for everything and all of you.
We narrowly escaped jetski collisions as we made our way out of Las Hadas. It was a beautiful day and we were looking forward to the tranquility of Carrizal. We passed close by a few tankers and container ships on the way. Each of the little rectangles on a container ship is what you see on an 18 wheeler semi truck…huge – and this one we estimated had over 2,200 containers. That’s a lotta stuff.
When we got to Carrizal, there were 3 other boats and 1 powerboat. Still plenty of room for us to tuck up in there and have some space.
A couple of boats sailed in the second evening and as luck would have it, one was our old pals on Linger Longer! We knew they were making their way north after being down in Zihuatanejo for GuitarFest – we didn’t know they were stopping in Carrizal. It was a happy reunion and we enjoyed hanging out with them as usual. The next morning they headed off to Barra. We hung out one more day before getting up at 4:00am for the daylong sail destination of Cabeza Negra. We were heading into territory not all that well documented in our guide books and many people just make a long passage from this area all the way to Zihuatanejo (around 180 miles). There were 3 spots we were hoping to stop on the way down – being potential surf breaks that Jonny wanted to check out. Cabeza Negra is not even really listed as an anchorage in some books, it offers little protection and had the potential to be un-anchorable. When we were making our plans, I had said if it was too rolly to anchor there, I wanted to turn around and come back – because it would mean the next two spots would be just as rolly or worse. I was under the impression that was actually our plan.
We left in the moonlight and it was a beautiful sunrise as we sailed on past Manzanillo and an all around decent day. Aside from the huge swell. Even though we were around six miles off shore, we were able to clearly see the volcano in Colima, periodically spewing puffs of smoke. The Colima volcano is one of the most active, and most potentially dangerous in Central America. It was pretty cool to see – as I had no idea it was there at first and learned about it only after noticing it out there.
After a full day of sailing and motor sailing we approached Cabeza Negra. There was a huge swell on. We slowly made our way toward what would be the safest spot to anchor. I’ve never sailed so close to such huge swell, that was turning into breaking waves far too close for comfort. We did a few loops and tried to figure out if we dared stay. On the one hand we were exhausted and wanted to just stop, so we contemplated just spending a night and moving on. The swell was so gigantic and the crashing waves so huge, that surfing was absolutely not going to be an option. Neither of us thought it would be comfortable to anchor and due to the worry and the rolling we likely would get no sleep. Having just spent 11 hours getting there, the idea of backtracking 11+ more hours back (and in the night) was not all that appealing. Going on to the next anchorage was not an option, as it was even less protected and the huge swell would be rocking there, too. Jonny pitched the idea of just pushing on and going all the way to Zihuatanejo. We hadn’t actually discussed going all the way down there and I wasn’t really in the mindset to go that far south only to have to come all the way back north in a fairly short amount of time to make our way back up to the Sea for hurricane season. We did not have a lot of time to debate, the sun was sinking slowly in the west and if we were to push on for another 24 hours at least – twice as far as we’d just come – to arrive in Isla Ixtapa before dark the next night, we’d have to go NOW. We analyzed the situation as quickly as possible and decided to go for it. We had no food prepared for an overnight and, as usual, it was absolutely the worst timing for me girl-wise. I’m not sure why, but I was really feeling like I did not want to go to Zihuatanejo. After a brief cry, I adjusted my expectations and we sailed off as the sun set.
Amazingly enough I did not feel seasick at all on this passage. Even though it was pretty rolly, I was able to put together a simple pasta dinner with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and Parmesan and prepare some snacks for the long night. I had to crash on the early shift, but unfortunately there wasn’t really much sleep to be had. The swell was big and the seas were rough. Jonny handled it all like a champ – sailing triple reefed at 6-9 knots most of his watch. At one point between the swell and wind direction, Summer had a bit of a mini-broach, but luckily Jonny was able to get her back on track and that was the worst that happened.
On my watch there was another beautiful sunrise and we watched the water temp rise and the color deepen to a gorgeous blue-green. We saw a number of sea turtles, and had a fishing line out in hopes of something tasty. We were struggling to sail and motor sail and keep up an average speed so that we could arrive before dark. If we didn’t have the darkness deadline, we could’ve sailed along at a more leisurely pace. Since the wind wasn’t cooperating with our schedule, we had to fire up the ol’ iron genny far more than we had wanted – but it ran like a champ.
We were getting close and it was looking like we might just drop the hook before dark. And this is of course when something HUGE hit the fishing lure. We had no idea what it was, but at first hit it nearly spooled the reel. Jonny fought hard for over an hour. Reeling in when he could, getting it almost to the boat and it would spook and run again. I managed the wheel – turning us to keep the line from crossing behind the boat and to keep us from sailing too fast. We were flogging and going around 2-3 knots as the sun was eyeing the horizon. I was dying to see what it was on the hook, but then again, it was getting a little old and I was really dying for it to just be over already. Poor Jonny was sweating bullets and using one of our cockpit cushions to protect his leg from the pole end (he should’ve bought that fish fighting belt at the nautical flea market in CA). It was almost to the boat and at the last minute it swam across the stern to the other side. The line got caught over part of the windvane. I was able to pop it up and off in a slack moment and off ran the fish one more time. Once again, it was almost near the boat – opposite the side Jonny was on. I caught a glimpse of something dark and huge, it was so close! What WAS it!?! Once again, the line was caught over the windvane. I tried the same trick to pop it off, but it was too taut this time and PING. It snapped. Just like that. Over an hour’s worth of fighting and anticipation and then…Nothing. We never even got to see what it was AND we lost yet another lure and a whole lot of line got ruined in the process. It was very likely something we didn’t actually want to catch – like a marlin or some other kind of billfish that would just stab us and bleed all over the place if we even tried to bring it on board. Tell me again why fishing is so much fun?
We shook off our disappointment and I revved up the motor and got us back on course. We were really pushing it now to get into the anchorage. The sun was halfway down the horizon when we were finally able to make out the details of Isla Ixtapa. We made our way around to the east side of the island and got the hook down just as it became too dark to see. After putting the boat together, I had to jump in and wash off the last 39 hours of grime and sweat. It felt great and there was SO much phosphorescent algae in the water – it was magical. And it wasn’t quite as rolly as it could have been – the huge swell was not wrapping around to that side of the island and I could hardly wait to go to eat and sleep.
Isla Ixtapa is a small and quite beautiful island just a short ways off shore from the vacation-haven of Ixtapa. Ixtapa was one of the first resort towns that was designed by the Mexican tourism board (Fonatur) specifically to be a tourist town. The beaches are lined with towering resort hotels and the point houses a Club Med. The island is a major destination for every single person visiting Ixtapa. Starting around 9 in the morning, the water taxis begin ferrying over tourists in droves. Being as it was also the tail end of Semana Santa, the tourists were thick. We spent the entire next day just hanging out in the cockpit, watching the tourist, jet skis and banana boats zip frantically all around us. We were safe on our little fiberglass island of tranquility, sipping lemonade and watching the chaos. We contemplated swimming ashore to check it out. We contemplated that for a few days. We did finally get the dinghy in the water and took off to see if we could make it all the way over to Ixtapa Marina – and see the surf break that is supposedly near there.
We got out around the south side of Isla Ixtapa and headed around the point. We had been so protected behind the island, we didn’t realize the monumental swell was still pumping. It was some of the scariest dinghy-ing I’ve done – but luckily nothing broke over us. We realized it was just too far and too much swell to actually go all the way over there. We turned back and did a little tour along the shore – seeing the fancy homes and Club Med resort and hotels along the way. I convinced Jonny to land the dinghy on shore just past the main water taxi pier – just across from Isla Ixtapa. The beach was packed and we just wanted to do a little recon to see how Jonny might be able to get to surf breaks – buses? Taxis? We had no idea – but we realized taking the dinghy anywhere (with our puny motor) was not happening. We happened upon the crocodile sanctuary and got a whole lot of nature all at once.
There were huge crocodiles – and people feeding them bags of raw chicken – they clambered right up to the fences and chomped their giant jaws.
Then came the iguanas.
We also saw a huge number of Roseate spoonbill birds in breeding plumage – striking pink birds with comical bills – snapping at twigs and leaves and building nests.
And there were the usual snowy white egrets. The fun never ended! But Jonny was worried about leaving the dinghy on the busy beach so we didn’t stay long. We escaped the beach craziness and made it back to our little quiet home.
Realizing there wasn’t really anything productive we could do from that anchorage, we decided to just go the last 10 miles around to Zihuatanejo bay. At this point I was actually looking forward to it. We were coming up on the second weekend of Semana Santa (which really lasts 2 weeks) so it seemed like the island was just going to get crazier, and it was a good time to go. We’d heard all kinds of great stories from Kirk and Kris about Zihua and were looking forward to experiencing it ourselves. They said there was a panga that would bring you water, fuel and even take your laundry in for you. It was hard to believe that kind of service would be affordable, but we were willing to try. We were approaching 2 months of not having done laundry.
We made a quick trip ashore to the Isla before leaving – figured we at least had to see it – and it was so early we were the only tourists there as a few locals were preparing for the coming onslaught.
One section of the island – in a freshly raked restaurant – had about 5 different bunnies hopping around! I ascertained that they were wild rabbits. They were SO cute though! I chased them around for quite a while.
It was a lovely little trip around the point, past Ixtapa and up into Zihua. Jonny had a line in the water on the way to Zihua and said we would eat whatever he caught – as it’s been so long since we had fish. Unfortunately he caught a big skipjack – and we don’t like them. Very dark fish, almost like eating mushy meat. The only way I can stand it is buried in a curry! I was instantly enchanted with the anchorage at Playa La Ropa. Even though it was on the far side of the bay from the actual town center, it was much cleaner and prettier and quiet. So we had a bit of a long dinghy ride to go ashore, it was absolutely worth it. We didn’t go ashore the next day, taking in the magic of the views and the lights of the town sprawling up the hillsides at night.
We called the phone number of the people who provide the water/fuel/laundry services. Sure enough, Hilda was able to understand my Spanish and we made arrangements for them to come pick up our laundry and fuel jugs in the morning. Right on time, a panga showed up and took our 2 huge contractor trash bags full of laundry and our 2 jerry jugs for diesel, and promised to return same time next day with full fuel, clean laundry and 50 gallons of purified water for our tanks. It really seemed too good to be true. I thought for sure at least the message about using only the laundry detergent I provided would somehow get lost.
The next morning, right on time, our panga guys returned. The panga was loaded down with 10 water jugs, our clean laundry (every last bit of it made it back AND it smelled how I like it to) and our diesel. The cost was barely any more than if we’d gone to shore and slogged through all these errands ourselves. I was starting to think maybe Zihua was the best place EVER!
We explored a bit of the town and discussed the best way to get Jonny surfing. When we were hiding behind Isla Ixtapa, we missed out on all the great surf in Zihua (by a day!) caused by the huge swell. So we had to set sites on other breaks.
I was all for Jonny taking a solo trip and having some surfing fun while I got to hangout at anchor and in Zihua, but that just didn’t seem to be a possibility. We looked into taking buses up to Troncones – a good surf spot and small low key resorts on an unprotected bay. We looked into staying there but the costs, even for a hostel, were just too high. We decided maybe we’d rent a car for a week and just be able to drive places every day. Renting a car and driving up to other surf spots – even just 10 -20 miles away, would mean finding a place to park it on shore, getting up well before daylight and getting the boards and all gear loaded onto the dinghy, and going ashore and leaving the dinghy all day on the beach… yeah it was not sounding at all fun to me. The getting up BEFORE the crack of dawn every day for a week wasn’t sounding so great to Jonny either, and if I chose not to go it would mean being stuck on the boat with no dinghy motor (we were too far out for me to row Mini-P)….Ummmm. No. So we scrapped the car idea and just decided to sail up to Troncones and The Ranch (another 10 miles north of Troncones) and see if we could try to anchor safely.
We set off one afternoon back to Isla Ixtapa – just 10 miles, which is about a 2 hour trip for us, not including boat prep and anchoring and all that, so maybe 3-4 hours overall. We anchored and prepared to leave in the morning just before sunrise so that there would be time to get some early surf in. Troncones is just a beautiful little bay with not a lick of protection in any direction for a sailboat.
It was pretty rolly and we had our flopper stoppers out to kept us somewhat sane onboard. I guess the surf wasn’t all that and Jonny was hot to move on north to find some of these mysterious places described to us by a reliable source. We managed to locate “The Ranch” none too easily. It wasn’t even a bay of any sort, it was just wide open straight shore line. If you look up “open roadstead anchorage” in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure you will see a picture of this place. It was quite shallow even very far off shore and incredibly rolly with a strong current. But… the surf…. Jonny came back after his first session just beaming. Not only was it a really fun wave, but out of the dozen or so people surfing there that morning, nine of them were women in “cheeky bottoms” bikinis. He was pretty sure he’d died and gone to heaven (except for when he returned to the boat and there I was). He surfed at least twice a day – 4-6 hours per day total. We spent 2 nights rolling around in this crazy non-anchorage and finally Jonny couldn’t handle the rolling anymore so we decided to go back to Troncones. I wasn’t a fan of the rolliness for sure, but I wasn’t about to rain on the surf parade. Troncones was rollier than ever and we only spent one more night there before heading back to Zihua bay.
I had been keeping in contact with our friends on Prism (https://svprism.com/) and they were due to arrive in Zihua any day. We were pretty excited to see them again; it had been over a year since we last hung out. They were kind of our first (and two of our favorite) cruising friends. We settled down in Playa La Ropa again to hang out and wait.
As it happened, we spent a couple more weeks in Barra de Navidad. Boats were constantly coming and going from the harbor – and that meant many were also running aground, just like we did. It was so nice to have someone zip out to assist us when we ran aground – so every time we noticed someone stuck, Jonny zipped out in the dinghy to rescue them.
The first couple insisted on taking us out to dinner, and it was very nice to take a water taxi ashore and eat someplace much fancier than we are accustomed to. Being ashore at night is such a novelty!
Jonny continued to surf nearly every day and I continued to try to avoid the French Baker nearly every day. Jonny realized he needed a different surfboard and was hoping the local surf shop would have one in trade for one of his. There was a potential board, and the shop owner said he should take it out for a test ride the next day. Before we even got that far, Jonny met a guy vacationing from the US who had brought a board with him that he didn’t want to bring back (apparently it’s pretty pricey to bring a board on the airplane these days!). It just so happened to be the perfect board and it just so happened to be a great price. It also just so happened that we hadn’t planned to spend any money on such a transaction…but Jonny was so excited about this board, and it was pretty likely he could sell his other board for the same price someday, somewhere…how could he NOT buy it? He was one happy camper. I mean, surfer.
The week after I returned from Spanish school, I got a call from Chayo – she was interested in coming for a visit on the weekend! I was very excited; since I thought it was a longshot they’d come out. But Chayo and the adorable Jenny, Chayo’s beautiful oldest daughter, Isis and her nephew Giovanni, along with the wonderful Canadians Murray and Beth, trekked out to Barra and took a water taxi out to find Summer. Yes, we had 8 people in our tiny cockpit, and it wasn’t nearly as cramped as I thought it would be. Chayo had told me not to worry about food – and she brought a veritable feast for everyone. There were fruits and veggies, snacks, an amazing caracol (like giant snail?) and shrimp ceviche salad, and sandwich makings. She just sat right there in the cockpit and whipped everything up for everyone. It was quite impressive. Such a fun afternoon and I was so grateful everyone came.
I had made some chocolate cupcakes, which everyone seemed to be enjoying, until I told them they were made with black beans – the adults were adult about it, but Jenny and Giovanni refused to finish theirs. We all had a good laugh.
We took one day to explore the canals and barrio at the far end of town. There are 3 fingers of water in parallel that go into Barra from the top of the lagoon. Not sure how to describe them, canals kept seeming to be the word we used, but doesn’t seem accurate…
One day we took a field trip to the town of Cihuatlan. Not a far bus ride – and we heard there was a propane plant there where we could get our propane tank filled. As luck would have it, another man got on the bus with a propane tank. We asked him where the plant was and he said just to get off when he did. That was convenient. As we made our way into the compound, I noticed one of those signs that says “It’s been X days since we had an accident on the job site”. The number space was blank and I raised an eyebrow. The man working the hoses had a badly burned and scarred face…I’m guessing they gave up on that sign after whatever happened to him. As usual, they were not able to fill our tank as expected – but we realized that another area had the proper nozzle to fill our tank. Mission accomplished after a fashion.. We were still a ways from the town of Cihuatlan, so we decided to take another bus rather than walk in the heat with a full propane tank (yeah, I know, we should’ve gone to town first and gotten propane after, but we had no idea where stuff was and we got off the bus already—every time you get on or off a bus, it costs (ok, not much, but it adds up!) – there are no such things as transfers in Mexico.
Cihuatlan was a bustling little town with pretty much everything you could ever want – and NO tourists! It was fun to be in a ‘real’ town where no one was trying to hustle us or sell us something or take us on a boat ride, etc. etc. We had a delicious lunch and got to try “tuba” finally. Tuba is a fermented drink make from coconut tree sap. It’s sort of tasty and refreshing, and very low alcohol content. Tuba is not something you can buy in a store – you can only buy it from guys walking around selling it out of large gourds they carry sometimes hanging from a bar across their shoulders. I learned about it in my Spanish class, and had been on the lookout for guys walking around saying “tuba tuba tuba” – I’d probably ignored it a hundred times before.
One day after saving a run-aground, Jonny was chatting with the people and spotted a sea horse in the water! He brought it back to show me and we released it shortly after admiring it and having a photo shoot. What amazing little creatures!
We finally decided to say Adios to Barra. Poor Summer had sat for so long in the murky lagoon, we wondered if she’d even be able to move for all the green muck growing on her. We made it to the fuel dock to fill all our fuel, water and hose down Summer a bit – and we were off. We made the huge 4 mile trek out to Melaque, where the water was (somewhat) clearer and we could spend the day cleaning Summer a bit for a longer run south.
We had a beautiful day-long trip down to Ensenada Carrizal. Carrizal is a somewhat narrow and long bay surrounded by rocks and greenery. Tucked up in there, we could see nothing else, as if we were far, far away from civilization – yet just around the corner was the huge port of Manzanillo Bay, with huge tankers and container ships coming and going non stop.
The water was crystal clear, reminiscent of our days up in the Sea of Cortez. It was some of the top snorkeling we’ve done. The coral just went on and on, in amazing colors and all our usual friends were swimming around in abundance. While I was paddling around gawking, Jonny decided to give his new spear gun a try. After a while, I got a bit chilly (water was cooler there!) and hopped in the dinghy to warm up. Soon after, Jonny comes racing back and jumps in the dinghy rather quickly. He had shot a small triggerfish and was trying to get another, when all of a sudden he noticed a shark swimming out of a sea cave to investigate all the blood floating around. He considered shooting the shark in the head (and, then what?), but instead decided to go away as quickly as possible. It was likely not a dangerous shark (reef shark?), but you can never be too careful… And the triggerfish got left behind – an offering to Mr. Shark, I guess.
After several days of exploring around Carrizal, we decided to check out Santiago. It was just around the corner, and we buzzed over there and didn’t have much interest in staying – so we decided to continue on the short way around the next corner into Manzanillo Bay and to Las Hadas anchorage.
The resorts and homes on the point were breathtaking and coming around into Las Hadas was even more so – it’s a wonder we didn’t pass out from losing all that breath. Las Hadas reminded me of pictures of Greece – with the sprawling, bright white stone buildings, gorgeous bougainvillea and palm trees interspersed. Definitely not hard on the eyes. We anchored near a small beach under the Paradise Restaurant – as we’d heard it was a good place to land the dinghy (as opposed to the expensive dinghy dock in the ‘marina’) and that they had wifi. The marina there was mostly for powerboats – it is a “Med Mooring” style place – which means you have to back in and tie up from the stern – not super easy on a sailboat, especially one with a windvane and no steps off the stern. Not that we needed a marina anyway. The anchorage was lovely, even swimmable – but the added bonus was right on shore -there were beach showers under a palm tree and overlooking the beach. What luck and luxury! Oh and a bit of trivia for you – apparently Las Hadas is where the movie “10” was filmed.
All the resorts were built up into the steep hills surrounding the bay. To get from the beach to the street above the resort, we had to wind our way up 220 stairs! Yes, I counted. There is nothing of use within walking distance, and it takes two buses to get anywhere really. Not a huge deal, buses are only 7 pesos. We explored the city of Manzanillo – and found it to be quite charming as big cities go.
We also spent some time exploring the smaller town of Santiago, which I quite liked as well. The Saturday market there is gigantic – vendors setting up tables and canopies that seem to go on forever. Everything from fruits and vegetables to fine silver jewelry can be found. We splurged on a small bag of candied pecans and had a fun chat with the “hombres de nueces” as I named them.
In between Santiago and Manzanillo is a long stretch with the big box stores and chain restaurants– Walmart, Home Depot, Mega grocery stores etc. We hit up a few of those as well. We did not, however, visit ChickyLandia.
I took a day by myself to go into Santiago and get provisions and find a haircut (I was way overdue!). I much prefer wandering through a smaller town to stock up than the big cities – and there’s things I don’t like to buy at the chain stores (meat, chicken, certain veg, etc). I checked out a number of peluquerias (hair salons) and finally hit upon one that was just right to cut off my goldilocks. Peluqueira “Chuy” had a comfy couch and cheery décor. As I waited my turn, Chuy offered me a treat from a jar of candy. Finally in the chair, Chuy had a look at my poor locks. He was quite distressed and could hardly wait to cut them down. He spoke no English, so we struggled a little – but, seeing as I’m not too particular about my hair, I just kept saying “Si! Perfecto!” to whatever it was he suggested. I tried to explain to him I live on a boat and my hair is in salt water all the time…he just kept shaking his head and saying “ooooh, muy muuuuy mal!!” When he’d had his way and I was overjoyed at how light my head felt, I offered him 70 pesos ($4) – which included a 20 peso tip over and above the 50 pesos he charges. I had an also ridiculously inexpensive and tasty lunch and then loaded up on chicken, meat and veg – and staggered toward the buses with my light head and heavy loot.
On our final provisioning run to the mega store (for all the heavy dry goods), we decided to splurge and take a cab back – which could snake down to the beach side- rather than us having to lug everything down 220 stairs. It was not really that much more expensive, either! What a treat. Our cabbie spoke perfect English and turns out he had lived in Los Gatos/San Jose, CA for many years. He’d been back in Mexico for 30 years now. When asked which he liked better, he said “San Jose is much cleaner, but in Mexico you feel much freer”. We heartily agreed.
As we got out of the cab and it turned around to leave, Jonny realized he’d left the hot tortillas under the rear window. He took off running to try to catch the cab before it got away. Just then one of the many resort golf carts came up and ushered Jonny to jump on the back – the last I saw of him he was hanging on for dear life as the golf cart sped off – faster than golf carts should go – around the corner. I sat down to wait. A while later, a dejected Jonny came tromping back…the cab had disappeared up the hill by the time the golf cart reached the real road. No tortillas for us. Although –I did get the Paradise Restaurant to sell me some just before we weighed anchor!
It was a Friday when we left, and for days the craziness had been building up—Semana Santa –Holy Week and Easter are big beach holidays here. The jet skis zooming around and nearly hitting boats, was a little too nerve wracking. We had to escape before the weekend found us with a jetski through our hull (or, as they say “all hull broke loose”). We decided to make the short trip back to secluded Carrizal and peacefully wait out the holiday before heading evermore south. Exactly where or how far was still being debated.
My week-long solo adventure began with an easy, short bus ride to Melaque. When I finally found where to catch the next bus to La Manzanilla, I discovered I had just missed one and had to wait over an hour and a half for the next one. I wouldn’t have minded wandering around Melaque a bit if I didn’t have my heavy pack with me. Instead I went a few blocks to one of the best ice cream places in Mexico (that we’d visited a few days before). I had the opportunity to tell the girl it was the best ice cream I’ve had in Mexico and she “whoo hooo’d” and clapped, and as I was leaving she told her father what I’d said (well, she told him I said it was the best ice cream in “todo el mundo” – world…close enough). It was clearly a family operation and they were proud of their homemade ice cream – so I was glad I got to tell them how good it was (and grateful I could do so in Spanish!).
I met a Canadian woman while I was waiting for the bus and found out she and her ex-husband had boat and had wanted to cruise. They got invited to cruise for six weeks on a Swan 56 (huge, gorgeous boat) and she said that trip pretty much blew their plans for cruising. They discovered it was not all hammocks and cocktails…it was far more work than they had imagined and they nixed the idea altogether. The next short bus ride was a bit of an adventure. I’m not sure exactly what was wrong with the bus, but it seemed to be popping out of gear a lot and making a horrible grinding noise. I was in the front seat with a large space in front of me, where plastic jugs of fuel and a large metal tool box were sliding around on the floor. Around the sharp, steep corners, while bracing myself I also tried to hold the tool box and fuel jugs with my leg so they wouldn’t slide around and hurt someone. The man next to me had a little boy sleeping on his lap, and he and I exchanged a few laughing cringes and I wished I knew how to say “if you can’t find ‘em, grind ‘em” in Spanish. One of the American women sitting behind me started nervously yelling “I don’t like this! I think we should get off! I’m taking a taxi next time. Shouldn’t we get off???” I looked out the window at the woods and views from the mountain we were going over and thought, “get off and do what?!”. So in an effort to calm her down, and thinking of much scarier rides I’d had, I just said “Hey, at least we can’t see the road through the floor”. It didn’t seem to appease her.
I made it to La Manzanilla just fine and found the house I was staying at. The school had led me to believe I was staying with a family, as in being part of the family, in the family home – like an exchange student type situation—where I’m the only person staying with them and they are interested in having me. As it turned out, I was staying in a room, more similar to a hostel situation – where there are other renters with different agendas, and the family had a private residence next door that I never even got to see.
When I paid my deposit online, I had also chosen the “no meals” plan, as it seemed ridiculously expensive and I was sure I could either work something out to share costs with the family or simply eat on my own. They wanted $40 for a week of breakfasts – and we spend less than $40 for 3 meals / day for 2 people all week. I just couldn’t do it. The only reason I was in school at all was that I had saved my parents’ gifts for the last two birthdays and Christmases – so this week was a generous gift from my parents and I certainly wasn’t going to let it be a rip-off! But the school was insisting that it was necessary for me to pay this for some reason I couldn’t understand. They said I could switch the breakfast to a dinner if that was better for me.
At the “homestay”, I was shown my room, which was huge and had a double bed and a single bed, and my own toilet and shower and a very large fan. I certainly couldn’t complain about that!! I briefly met Chayo and Andres and their daughter Jenny. Chayo spoke to me in rapid Spanish and seemed kind of annoyed with me (either because I wasn’t understanding everything or I’m just annoying in general, I’m not sure) and then they all disappeared. I met Jan, the wonderful Canadian woman in the room next to mine, and she showed me the ropes of the place – there was a refrigerator on the rooftop terrace I could put some food in, and during the week Chayo ran a taco stand from the front of the place and used the kitchen facilities (which consisted of a 2 burner cook top) for that. As it turned out, Jan was good friends with the mother of Peter – the guy we’d met on Fukngivr! Always a small world.
My accommodations were surrounded in beautiful tile work – tile work is Andres’ trade and he did the whole place himself. I had fun noticing new designs everytime I looked around.
There I was alone and it didn’t appear there was a dining area where I was going to be sharing meals with the whole family, and no one was around to offer me a meal. I figured I’d sort it all out on Monday morning when I could actually talk to the people at the school in person. Since I was starving, I wandered into the town square and had some delicious and cheap tacos and beans (if I had those every night for dinner it would cost me $12 for the week). I chatted with a lovely Canadian couple on vacation and then wandered over to the flan booth for a nice slice of choco-flan in the plaza. It was a lively night at the square, which was only a block from my place. I stopped at a tienda and purchased breakfast food- yogurt, honey, granola and juice to last me all week (for just over $6) and stuck it in the rooftop fridge. I unpacked and settled in a bit in the room, feeling a little unsure of the whole situation I found myself in. I had dreams of ending the week with a whole new family, surrounded with people who wanted nothing more than to patiently share themselves with me while I struggled to speak and understand.
I was feeling a strange mix of excitement and nervousness for my classes, and mixed feelings about the housing situation. On the one hand, it was certainly my kind of place to stay as a budget traveler, on the other hand it was not at all what I was led to believe I was paying so much money for. I learned from Jan that I didn’t even want to know how much she was paying for an identical room – as it was so much less than what I was paying to the school for accommodations.
I found a bowl, spoon and cup for my breakfast in the morning, and rather than eat on the rooftop alone, I brought my food downstairs in hopes of someone being around. I did get to chat a bit with Chayo and tried to understand the whole meal and payment situation. We discovered that Chayo gets less than half of what I had paid to the school and almost nothing for meals if she needs to provide them. I told her I would rather give the money directly to her – buy tacos from her taco stand etc. She seemed to be fine with that and didn’t have a problem with me storing my breakfast food and using her bowls and utensils. I started to get the sense that this school might be a bit of a rip off. This was later confirmed by a number of other people’s stories.
I went in a bit early to meet the office manager and figure out this whole $40 debacle (determined not to pay it!) and then have my first 3 hour class session. Miriam in the office was a very sweet woman who had been so helpful to me in all the emails leading up to my arrival, was extremely nice and seemed to understand my plight. She told me not to pay the rest of my fees until she talked to the bosses. I went up to my classroom on the third floor with breathtaking views of the town and La Manzanilla Bay dotted with picturesque sailboats. There I met Miguel, who, as it turns out was to be my private instructor for the week.
I guess there were no other intermediate students signed up for that week! Instead of 3 hours, we covered the same materials in 2 hours each day (as per the school’s policy). I was not surprised or upset by this – although I was a bit disappointed not to meet new classmates to study with, I was also quite happy to be getting 100% of the teacher’s attention. Again, another weird mix of feelings about the whole thing. I absolutely loved Miguel, though, no mixed feeling there! He was the perfect wise and patient teacher-figure, and never once laughed at me (inappropriately, anyway). He did once call me a liar, though. He would read articles to me in Spanish and I would have to tell him in my own words (again, in Spanish) what it was about. I only had the vaguest notion about this one article, so I was kind of making stuff up, using words I knew… he started laughing heartily and said “Mentirosa!” (liar!).
The class time was well structured with a great booklet of past, present and future tense conversations and articles, and every day I had to write a diary and answer true/false and essay questions about a long article. I was very happy with all of that and feel like I made some great progress. The thing I am the worst at is listening for comprehension. If I can read it, no problems at all, but I did struggle every time he said “Escucharme!” (listen to me). I realized I was nearly illiterate and I’d been speaking horribly wrong Spanish for so long, with no one correcting me, that some things had to be unlearned with much difficulty. I want to start wearing a sign around my neck that says “Por favor, corrija mi español” (Please correct my Spanish). Everyday Miguel would correct my diary and I had to re-write it all correctly for the next day. We also got into a number of off topic conversations, which were great, and I so appreciated him stopping to correct me as I rambled on and on. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know how badly I ramble on and on in English, I’m sure you can imagine how patient Miguel must be to suffer through my stilted ramblings in Spanish!
As it turned out there were no extracurricular activities planned or available to me- as the school’s website had led me to believe. I was on my own to force my way into the family life and find other people in town to talk to. Not too hard for someone like me, right? Except for the fact that the town was crawling with white folk, mostly Canadian and many not speaking a lick of Spanish. Being as I am, I was a prime target for people to come up to me and start speaking English (I don’t know why, but I’m the person people always stop to ask for help and directions, etc). The locals were clearly kind of sick of tourists and all very busy working hard. I couldn’t seem to worm my way into any lazy chit-chat with townfolk. This was not going to be the “immersion” week I’d hoped for. Maybe if I’d had 3 or 4 weeks I could start penetrating some inner circles, but for now I was just another gringa.
I did manage to work out the $40 situation. The bosses (who, I discovered, were actually money-grubbing Americans) said that if I weren’t eating any food, they would generously knock the bill down to $20 for the use of Chayo’s plates. I simply refused and Miriam sighed heavily and amended my final invoice to be $40 less. I never got to meet these bosses who were trying to charge American prices for Mexican services (or in some cases, NO services), and I’m actually glad about that. My only regret was that I didn’t choose the ‘no lodging’ option and be able to pay Chayo what she deserved directly. It was a learning experience in more ways than language.
It was feeling strange to be on my own, as well as on land. So much space, and so many places and things and noises and no endless tasks or chores. It was all a bit overwhelming and I felt a little lost. I wasn’t there to site-see or shop and playing on the beach was not a big draw. So I spent most of my afternoons working on my homework, availing myself of the luxury of wifi and enjoying a daily shower. There were a number of people coming and going and for a couple days I wasn’t even sure how many people were living there. I finally sorted it all out – Bonnie and Charley were the awesome folks in the upstairs apartment and aside from Jan, all the other folks were just visiting friends. A lot of great people to meet and chat with and I was unable to resist speaking English. I generally don’t get enough socializing in any language, so I was eating it up!
I observed how different land-people are from boat-people. Everyone we meet on other boats are always instantly our new friends, we easily invite each other on board and chat for ages. Land people are much more reserved and it’s a lot harder to break in. I guess cruisers are all pretty much ‘in the same boat’ and on the same page with most things – where as there are so many different situations or possibilities for what’s going on with land based lives- that people are a little more wary others and protective of themselves. It was an interesting thing to note, and also made me feel a little lonely. I was so grateful to for the time I got to spend chatting and hanging out with my new friends!
One afternoon Jan had bought some shrimp and invited me to help her prepare a shrimp feast. We sautéed them with onions, garlic, ginger, and coconut and pineapple – absolutely delicious on-the-fly recipe that I can’t wait to try again. Jan made a big pot of rice and we had a (for me) second lunch. Chayo joined us and we got to practice a bit more Spanish.
Another day, as I passed by the building that housed the municipal jail, there was a gorgeous little German shepherd puppy tied up in the courtyard. He was still there on my way back and I couldn’t resist stopping in to say hi. An older man came out and sat with me and patiently conversed. He was in no hurry and happy to chat – finally – someone else to practice my Spanish with! I learned the puppy had been found wandering alone and they were hoping to find his owners. I offered to take pictures to put up on the La Manzanilla webpage (that has a posting board where all the ex-pats gossip). My new conversation-friend Lorenzo asked me if I liked cerveza. Sure, I’ve got nothing against cerveza. Then he wanted to go get a cerveza with me. I figured he just wanted to knock back a beer with someone after work (he said he worked there at the jail building as the #2 guy in charge). We went to the nearby tienda and he motioned for me to pick out one of the giant beers from the cold case (he had a mangled arm, so it was hard for him to get it). I guess we were splitting it? He insisted on paying and we walked slowly to the park by the beach with our beer and plastic cup. As it turns out, Lorenzo doesn’t drink, and he wanted ME to drink that entire beer.
Suddenly, a light bulb went off in a dusty, unused corner of my brain…this seemingly sweet old guy with one gnarled, useless hand and a debilitating limp, was trying to get me drunk. I certainly hadn’t expected that. I sipped politely as Lorenzo tried to nail me down for a dinner date the next night. I had a very busy schedule with my new friends, so of course I couldn’t commit to anything… I felt bad, as Lorenzo was clearly just a lonely old man, but he was sort of an annoying, lonely old man. I tried to leave him with the nearly-full giant bottle of lousy beer, but he insisted I take it with me when I hurried off to my evening plans. I had to spend the next few days trying to avoid him every time I walked through town.
That evening, I actually DID have plans – I had a date with myself to attend the showing of an award-winning Mexican movie. I figured it would be good to watch a movie in Spanish as part of my learning. I didn’t even know what it was about or what the place that was showing it was all about. But it was just a block behind Chayo’s place. It turned out to be, well, actually I still don’t know what it was. It was just called Casa Luz. I thought it might be like a restaurant or at least a place that sold drinks. But it was at the top floor of a palapa type house and it was just an open space lined with plastic chairs and a pull down screen. As it turned out Miriam from the school office was sort of spearheading this event. She actually graduated from film school in Guadalajara and was in the midst of making her first film. It was nearly finished, but they badly needed funding – this evening’s film was a fundraiser for Miriam’s film. She showed a trailer and fund-asking clip. Hopefully the room full of wealthy-looking white folk was able to help her out (keep an eye out for her movie – Los Años Azules (The Blue Years)). The movie I ended up seeing was called “The Amazing Catfish”. Thankfully it had subtitles, but it was good for me to try to understand and hear words I knew. It was kind of depressing – about a lonely young woman who gets involved with a mother of four who is dying of AIDs. At the end, I ducked out right after the credits, before the lights came on and everyone saw me crying. I went home to write a summary of the film for my Spanish journal homework.
My final class came all too quickly. I wrote a card for Miguel (I’m sure he’s dying to correct it and return it to me, but I’m hoping it was all right!) and brought him a fresh cinnamon bun (I had no idea what else to do, but I wanted to bring him something to show my appreciation). I was really surprised that he also gave ME a gift when we were saying goodbye. I certainly hadn’t expected that – it was very sweet! It was a cute little purse that says “Morelia” on it, which is a town more inland. I was very touched that he did that.
I had a few good nights sitting out at the table on the street by Chayo’s taco stand. Listening to people’s conversations (even understanding some) and meeting a few people now and then. By Friday night, Jenny, Chayo’s 11 year old daughter, warmed up to me a bit when I brought out the Bucky Balls. They are a little cube of curiously strong magnetic balls that you can do all kinds of things with. We played with them for a couple hours – and it was great to see her doing something other than playing with her phone. I couldn’t resist giving them to her when we were finished. She was surprised and extremely excited –she said “gracias” many times. On Saturday – no school for any of us! I tried to do a little computer work and Jenny came in and hung out with me. We played with the Bucky Balls, listened to music and she drew me an adorable picture of us as mermaids under the sea. She helped correct me when I said things that clearly sounded stupid, but when she said things I didn’t understand it was sometimes frustrating for her. I found that I had learned enough to realize how badly I had been speaking before. Because of that, I lost a little confidence and was getting far shyer in speaking to people. I used to just blunder along saying everything I could think if, often making up words, until I knew I was understood. As Miguel told me, I need to practice, practice, practice!
Bonnie and Charley kindly invited to take Jan and I out for the best pozole in Mexico on my last night. I could hardly believe it was already my last night. I was really just getting to know everyone and was wishing I had one more week. Prior to dinner, Jan and I went up to see their friends Beth and Murray, who were staying in a beautiful little place up on the hill. We saw a wedding going on as we passed by the church and hiked up the hill to the fancier part of town. We had a great visit, enjoying the sweeping views of the town and bay, along with snacks and margaritas, before heading down for our pozole-fest.
I’d not yet tried pozole, so I was excited for the excuse to do so. We waited for the pop up street restaurant to complete set up and eagerly anticipated our meals. It got crowded fast and we ended up sharing our table with three other folks as our food was coming out. It turned out to be the nice couple I had met on my first night in town and one of their friends! It was great seeing them (they met me when I was feeling unsure of everything and finally got the “how it all turned out” happy ending story) and everyone had a good time chatting with everyone. The square was lively that night, with a loud band and a few food carts around. Charley and Bonnie treated us to a huge piece of tres leches cake and flan. We went back to the homestead to share our treats and play a fun word game (Bananagrams). We really need more games on the boat! (or, rather, any games).
While I was looking forward to being back to the comforts of my own home and cooking, I really wished I had a more time with these wonderful folks. But the next morning I was packed up and waiting for the bus. Andres and his sister in law were heading to Melaque and Chayo got them to take me (and Jan – who wanted to come along for the ride) all the way to Barra de Navidad! Saving me 2 bus rides – it was a quick trip, and good to listen to more Spanish conversation along the way. Everyone came out to wave goodbye and I was happy to have met all these great folks and hoping we keep in touch and maybe even get to visit again. Jan and I took the water taxi out to the lagoon – she was thinking of stopping to see Peter, but I think she changed her mind.
I was glad to get back home and change into some comfier clothes – a week of wearing real-people clothes was a bit much! I filled Jonny in on all my adventures and heard about his quiet week. He proudly declared that he didn’t speak to anyone all week, except for while he was surfing. To each his own, I guess!! Going away is great, but I was so grateful for the cool breezes and peace and quiet as I fell into my cushy memory foam that night. How much longer will we stay in Barra? Good question and one that will be answered someday. At least by the next blog post, I imagine!
More than a week zipped by in Chamela. We made one dinghy excursion down to the islands in the south of the bay. It was farther than it looked. But the island was thick and jungle-y with a nice little sandy beach away from the wind. We hung out, snorkeled a bit (the water is just gorgeous all over Chamela Bay) and had a picnic lunch.
The town we anchored close to is actually called Perula. I never got to see the town of Chamela. Perula is a very sleepy, low key town with limited provisions. The water in the bay is beautiful, clear and tuquiose and it was nice to just hang out on the boat and work on my soon-to-be revealed latest concept. It was quite rolly, but somehow we just kept staying. Going ashore was also not a big draw due to the strong, pounding surf that made dinghy landing downright scary to impossible.
As I was working on managing the books on my Kindle, it up and died. Wouldn’t turn on, off, reset or be recognized by my computer. I was in disbelief (I believe that stage of grief is called “denial”). After several days I tried to contact Amazon for help. I lugged my computer a mile down the dusty main road to an internet café and chatted online with several representatives. After nearly an hour it was determined that they couldn’t help me since I was unable to turn it on. Ummmm OK. Then they said it was basically a known software problem that happens occasionally and they’d replace it for me. But- then—oops. NO. It was out of warranty, so sorry. I think the anger phase was next, then the bargaining and more denial (I took the thing apart just to see what I could do to it). And soon fell into depression. Not sure I ever really got to the acceptance phase.
One afternoon I was down below and I heard Jonny greeting some people with the most enthusiasm I’ve ever heard from him. Who could it be?!?! I came up to see, much to my surprise, Jeff and Anne – our friends and suppliers of the CPT Autopilot (most awesome thing ever) from Moss Landing! We had no idea if or when we would ever see them down here. They came by the next day and hung out a bit and it was fun to catch up with them. We thought we’d get to hang out more in Tenacatita, but unfortunately we didn’t see them again – somehow missing them before they headed back north. Maybe another season?
We finally decided we’d had enough rolling around in Chamela and set off for Tenacatita.
As usual, we listened to the weather to plan our departure for a day of strong north wind. As often is the case, the weather reports were dead wrong for where we were. Instead we found ourselves beating hard into a strong south wind. We really didn’t feel like motoring the entire day down into that, so after a couple of hours we decided to head in to a bay called Paraiso (“paradise” – how could we go wrong?). The entrance to Paraiso was between rocky out-croppings and islands and was not at all clear or visible. All I could see was pounding surf spraying up onto all the rocks. It was necessary to trust our Navionics chart on the iPad, so I did and just kept heading towards what appeared to be certain death. The sea state was big and fairly rough and I just held our course as Jonny realized he needed to reel in the fishing line. Right at that moment a fish struck the line. We were kind of too close to shore to really deal with this, so I slowed way down and tried to veer off the wind a little bit (straight for rocks) while Jonny reeled in and released a big toro, which isn’t good to eat anyway (Damn the toros! Full speed ahead!).
I got us back on track and soon the entrance to Paraiso became clearer and I picked a path toward the anchor spot. Paraiso is a teeny tiny “pocket” anchorage, and I couldn’t imagine another boat in there with us. Luckily we had it all to ourselves. And it was insanely rolly – as in you couldn’t sit in the cockpit without being thrown to the sole. But the color of the water was mesmerizing and Jonny knew there was no way I would agree to leave. It was time to finally try an anchoring technique someone told us about a while ago – where you haul up an amount of chain (about ½ a boat length) and hook a line on, drop it back down and put the other end of the line to a cleat at the stern of the boat – essentially turning the boat into a giant bridle. You can then pull in the stern end of the line and the boat will turn away and become beam to the wind. Remember that boats naturally always point into the wind – and in our case, pointing into the wind meant being beam to the waves. So by turning off the wind we were then nose into the waves, which seriously diminished the discomfort level. It was pretty cool how it worked. We were able to eat lunch and then we both wanted to get into the water and explore the shore. There were actually two shores – the main one at a beach with a low key sort of resort and a side beach that was deserted and didn’t appear to have any land access to it. Since we had the dinghy on deck and didn’t want to go through the hassle of unloading it for one day, we set off with snorkels and dry bags. I went to the main beach and Jonny went to the side beach. After I determined the main beach was kind of messy looking (debris, random things, lots of rocks) and a bit gross, I swam out to the other beach and joined Jonny. We hung out for a bit and were treated to a siting of a Mexican ring tailed lemur who came out to the edge of the woods to spy on us. We also saw the first signs of Hurricane Patricia that made landfall just a little bit south in Barra de Navidad.
That night I was really hot to try a new recipe I found for okonomiyaki – Japanese vegetable pancakes. Despite the boat motion, I was able to pull these off and now I have a new favorite thing to eat! (sorry no pictures–they taste way better than they look).
The next morning we departed early for Tenacatita. It was mostly a very nice sail and the wind was finally behaving itself. We kept hearing how many boats were in Tenacatita (47 at one point) and we sort of dreading pulling into the crowded anchorage. As we rounded the corner into the first part of the Tenacatita bay call The Aquarium, we saw not a single boat in there! It looked nice and we anchored right on the anchor symbol on our chart. It was a bit rolly but looked beautiful with a huge stretch of beach and interesting rocks on our end. The palapas and homes on shore looked like they had been ravaged by disaster. The next day we set out in the dinghy to do some snorkeling. The water was not all that clear and aside from a giant manta ray and a cool rainbow-y fish, we didn’t see much. But it felt good to be in the water. It was a pretty rolly anchorage and we didn’t feel like hanging out on the boat. One thing I began to discover about having your home always rolling side to side – it’s not something you get used to or develop a tolerance to. Instead it’s something that slowly and insidiously drives you completely insane. We had a quick lunch and headed ashore to check out the beach.
A couple more boats had come over from the other bay and gone right ashore in the morning. They were returning to their dinghies when we were landing in the sketchy surf break. I got the skinny on the place from one of the women: The beach had been taken over by some wealthy man who was friends with a previous governor and he kicked everyone off the beach and began to demolish all the homes and businesses. He had armed guards making sure no one came ashore. Not long ago, there was a new governor who didn’t let this man keep the power over this land, so we can go ashore now, but there are no restaurants or tiendas and hurricane Patricia destroyed things just a little more so all that’s left is a depressing array of what once was. Such a shame – as it looked like it would have been a great place. The only way to get supplies was to walk two miles or more inland to a small market and I wasn’t feeling it, we could get creative with the remaining food we had. We explored some of the ruins and finally posted our umbrella and played in the water for a while. I’ve become so spoiled that I don’t even like swimming at the beach that much because of all the sand…jumping off the boat is eversomuch nicer! But it was fun to play in the waves and I went back to the shade while Jonny got the big smile he only gets when being carried forward by waves.
We were getting pretty low on food, so dinners were getting interesting. We knew there were absolutely no supplies at the next stop and we would have to cross the bay to La Manzanilla for a day to stock up. We heard on the morning cruiser net that the resort at the end of the Tenacatita anchorage was offering a deal on Superbowl Sunday (the next day!) – where cruisers could go there and use the all-inclusive facilities to eat and drink whatever they wanted, swim and watch the game on the huge TVs. While the sports game held no interest for us, the rest of the deal was sounding kind of good – given we had no food and a little splurge might be fun.
We headed the short 4 miles over to Tenacatita early in the morning so we could make the most of the ‘day pass’. I was starving! This is where all the boats were, but only around 20 were left by the time we arrived. We attempted to anchor twice and hit rocks and finally got the hook down in a reasonable spot, out of swinging distance of other boats. We were pretty near Linger Longer and I was looking forward to catching up with them again. Just as we anchored a couple came up to meet us and invite us on a group panga ride to La Manzanilla for the ‘big game’. While we declined, we ended up chatting with these people for quite some time. Finally we were getting in the dinghy and ready to head ashore to the luxurious mecca of food and relaxation. I wanted to say hi quickly to Linger Longer, but we were intercepted by Fred in his kayak (we’d met him in Mazatlan) and had a long chat and drifted quite a ways away. Finally a zip over to Linger Longer, for a chat and more declining of hospitality – I was really anxious to maximize this day pass. It was after 1:00pm by the time we survived the rough dinghy landing and walked over ½ mile to the resort. Walking through the resort, I tried to remain upbeat and positive, but it wasn’t all that nice. The food looked kind of gross and the pools were dingy, old and not in the greatest shape. When we got to the main desk and asked about the deal, they had no idea what we were talking about. They said the day pass was more than twice as much as we were told. With my bubble burst, we trudged dejectedly back down the beach to the other end where we heard there was one palapa restaurant. We had a ridiculously overpriced and not very good lunch (it took my jaw an entire day to recover from the tough coconut prawns), but I did have a margarita to drown my sorrows. After lunch, I stripped down to my bikini and we braved the crashing waves to try to get the dinghy out without getting rolled. There was a guy waiting for a good set to land his dinghy, but he finally gave up and just went back to his boat. Not a pleasant dinghy landing!
We swam and hung out at home. We did not think we’d spent much time in Tenacatita as it didn’t seem to be the paradise for us that it seems to be for many other folks. There was no place to get water or supplies, but there were plenty of other people – so it seems the draw to this place is the social scene with little or no interference from “outsiders” (i.e. non cruisers). Tenacatita has its own morning net and they usually announce the time for everyone to swim ashore and play bocci ball. It’s like a little gringo retirement village on water.
The next morning we took Summer across the bay to La Manzanilla. The wind was not coming from the north as it was supposed to, so we had no worries anchoring there and getting ashore. La Manzanilla is a very small and downright adorable town. We found a number of tiendas selling pretty much everything on our list (and then some). We decided to make a pass through town and see all the shops before buying anything, and when we got to the end, we were at the ‘crocodile park’. We couldn’t resist entering the park and walking the rickety boardwalk that circumnavigated the lagoon.
We paid our 25 peso fee and risked our lives for a good close up look at the crocs. At the end of the walk we got to the nursery – so many baby crocs! I had fun grabbing Jonny every time he was staring at crocodiles and watching him jump ten feet (he’s so easy to scare I can’t help myself). We got our groceries, some lunch and made our way back out to Summer. We relaxed for a while in the cute harbor before heading back across to Tenacatita.
Somehow we ended up spending a week in the bay and for the last five days there my feet never hit land. We took a nice long dinghy tour up the estuary, saw lots of birds and crabs, but no crocs (whew! being in a rubber boat surrounded by crocodiles is not my idea of fun).
We visited with a number of friends and made some new friends. I finally got to see another Bristol in person! Summer’s big sister, Gypsy Dream is a Bristol 41.1 and Graciela and Hugh anchored her right next to us. I couldn’t resist going over to say Hi – as I was sure they didn’t notice Summer. They immediately invited me aboard and while it was fun to see another Bristol, it was even better to get to know Graciela and Hugh. They have a wealth of stories from their years cruising. We were both planning to depart the next morning – us south and Gypsy Dream was heading north. When I returned to Summer, Kris came by and invited us for breakfast the next morning – so suddenly it seemed very possible we were not leaving the next day (especially as it was mentioned that “Ceasars” might be on the menu – which are like bloody mary’s but with clamato juice (apparently a Canadian thing). I’ve never even had a bloody mary). Linger Longer was all set up for a fancy sit down breakfast and we had a great time and some good eats as always with these guys.
As it turned out Gyspy Dream didn’t leave either, so in the afternoon, they came over for a show and tell aboard Summer. Which of course turned into an entire afternoon of visiting – they have the best stories! I was sad they were going north and we were going south. They left the next morning and we stayed on one more day. It was already going to be Friday and we might as well stay for the world-famous Tenacatita Friday Night Raft Up. I started to see how this place sucks people in…
I made a big batch of fried rice to share and we moseyed over maybe a few minutes late – 5:12 I think it was…and we were the last to arrive (save for one really late guy on a kayak). Man, these folks are punctual! I’ve always been punctual almost to fault, but in this current life, I’ve sort of relaxed a bit, as I thought it was part of deal, but apparently not here.
Robert (“the Mayor of Tenacatita”) and his wife, whom he calls The Lovely Miss Virginia, have been cruising for many, many years and Tenacatita is their favorite spot. Every Friday night, all the cruisers gather together on their dinghies and tie up in a big circle and pass food around, while Robert blows the conch and thinks of a question that each person must answer when introducing themselves. There were probably about a dozen boats at our raft up and we got to meet a few new folks. We sheepishly wormed our way into the group and got tied up. We ate some interesting potluck foods and heard some good stories and then just chit chatted with folks around us.
As the group was breaking up, we saw a boat entering the anchorage…could it be? Yes! It was Resolute. We’d been hoping to see them come around the corner at any day. We headed over to say hi and got invited up for drinks and I shared what was left of the ginormous mound of fried rice. It was fun as always and ended up being a late night. They tried to convince us not to leave the next day, but we’d already overstayed by two days and were really ready to move on (not to mention we were nearly out of water). As it turned out, Meagan was planning to fly to Florida to pick up some much needed boat parts. Hmmmm…the US, eh?? I asked if she might bring back a small, flat object for me…that’s right A KINDLE! She said yes, so all I needed to do was find wifi and order one before she returned to Mexico. Oh yeah and since we might not be seeing them again, we also had to figure out a way to get it from Banderas Bay back down to me or vice versa. Easy enough, we were hoping to connect with Prism and Orion, and surely they would run into one of them in La Cruz? (as it happens, when Resolute was heading back to La Cruz, they crossed paths with Orion who happened to be coming in from their long journey out to the Revillagigedos Islands!) And hoping they get to meet Prism soon (if not already). My back up plan is they leave the Kindle with our friend Lynne who is living in La Cruz and I don’t get it until we end up back there in a few months.
We had a lovely afternoon sail down to Barra de Navidad.
We did a ‘drive by’ through Melaque, which is just a bit north of Barra. It’s someplace we thought we might like to anchor after stocking up in Barra. We’d heard entering the Barra lagoon was a bit tricky and I was VERY careful to keep the boat exactly in the middle of the channel as it’s marked on our chart. Unfortunately that is the very wrong thing to do. We discovered this after we were stuck fast in the sand. Summer’s first true ‘running aground’. What a horrible feeling it is to see the depth sounder plummet to zero and feel the boat slowly grind to a sludgy halt as the keel digs down into sand and mud. After the initial few seconds of panic when you put the motor in neutral, you realize you aren’t really in any danger and the boat isn’t going to fall over, and certainly not sink. Then you begin the problem solving process. Firstly, of course, you try putting it in reverse and pulling yourself back to where you started. When that has absolutely no affect, you then start waving wildly as passing pangas. When that doesn’t work, you get on the radio and announce to everyone in the anchorage that you have grounded your boat and don’t know what to do.
A couple kind souls told us what channel the water taxis were on, and we called to ask for assistance. A panga arrived and we threw them a line and they tried to pull us backwards. We hoped it didn’t pull the cleat out of the transom. It didn’t, but it didn’t move the boat either. We tried a line on the front. A helpful guy (we later learned was Jeff) came out in his dinghy and tried to nudge us as the panga pulled from the front side. Still nothing. The panga motor was not strong enough to help us. The panguero left and we asked Jeff to help us by bringing and anchor out to the side of the boat. By setting the anchor in the direction we wanted to go, we could pull on the line and pull the boat towards it. This is known as “kedging off”, and for some reason we opted not to try that first (probably because digging out the anchor and the line and using our dinghy (which was not ready to go) would’ve been a huge pain in the butt – but with a dinghy there ready and willing, it wasn’t so hard. Jeff and Jonny went out in the dinghy and set the anchor while I paid out the line and then cleated it off near the end. We then pulled the line in and started to make the boat budge (along with me putting it in gear and gunning it a bit). The panga returned and as all the guys were conversing, I noticed the boat was free and floating away. I had to yell “We’re moving! We’re moving” to get their attention and get Jonny back on task pulling in the anchor line (quickly, so it didn’t get fouled in our prop!). We were now free to go and Jeff chaperoned us along the proper course through the shallows and out to the also- shallow anchorage. We picked a nice spot in the back and settled in, feeling oddly accomplished now that we’d truly joined the ‘aground’ club. It still remains to be seen what Summer’s keel looks like after this incident. The lagoon is pretty murky and gross, so there was no reward of jumping in to wash the sweat off after our hot afternoon ordeal.
The next morning was Valentine’s Day, which really didn’t mean that much to me, until the French Baker came by in his panga selling croissants, baguettes, tarts and quiches. I could not resist taking the last chocolate croissant and a pastry for Jonny and a chocolate tart for later. Along with my treats, I was also given a red rose! Suddenly, it seemed like a holiday!
After two nights in the lagoon and getting some food to tide us over, we decided to check into a slip in the marina for a night so we could fill up with water – and clean out the tanks – which somehow were full of debris, wash Summer, flip our 250 feet of anchor chain from end to end (the same end is always ending up in the water while the other end is always dry – seemed like a good idea to rotate) among other projects. As it was Valentine’s Day when we went to the marina office, they were offering a deeply discounted rate – which they said we could have for later days if we paid on that day. We opted to pay for 2 nights, starting the next day. We got a nice little slip at the end and access to all the facilities of this posh resort we were anchored behind.
While there was no ‘all you can eat and drink’ deal, I did manage to get a few hours of pretending I was on vacation at a swanky resort. Linger Longer was in the marina too and we had a fun afternoon at the swim up bar, meeting other cruisers. Jonny worked away on most of the projects while I managed to get a blog entry posted and take care of laundry and other business. It was a quick two days. After the first day, Dan on Dazzler pulled into the slip next to us, and it was fun catching up with him and having a wild and crazy neighbor. He gave Jonny a lot of grief for the fact that the French Baker had given me a red rose for Valentine’s Day and Jonny hadn’t given me anything. That night as we were peacefully watching a movie, Dan returned from having a number of drinks and loudly knocked on our boat and said “Hey Jonny, I have those roses you asked me to get! You know, to help you out! Yeah, you can pay me later, but here they are, the roses you asked for – for Jennifer” He handed us 3 red roses, and Jonny, not catching on to the fact that Dan was teasingly trying to make him look good, whispers to me “I don’t remember that conversation”. It went on and on and was pretty hysterical. Dan may or may not have disturbed some of our other neighbors. And I ended up with a nice bouquet. The next morning Dan sheepishly asked if he’d given us roses…
We finished off our work –giving Summer a final good scrub and filling the water tanks before heading back out to the peaceful lagoon. After having seen the town of La Manzanilla, I had been trying to coordinate a week-long session at a language school there, where I would live with a local family and go to classes every day. I really wanted to improve my Spanish and it seemed that Barra was an ideal place to leave Jonny alone for a week and it was a quick trip back to La Manzanilla overland. In Barra there were plenty of good folks around, boat projects to do and even a little wave Jonny can surf. Panic didn’t really set in for him until he realized he was going to have to feed himself.
I managed to arrange the school at the last minute to begin on the upcoming Sunday session. So I had a few days to hang out and see more of Barra. We also we took a bus ride out to see the town Melaque, just a few kilometers away.
Finally it was Sunday and I was packed and ready for my week-long learning adventure. Jonny ferried me ashore and helped me to the bus and off I went.
AND…We’re so grateful to the help we get from our friends now and then feeding the kitty!!
As Mazatlan faded away behind us, we were treated to one last fireworks display. Our overnight passage to Isla Isabel was fairly uneventful. We were able to sail most of the way, although it was a bit rough most of the time and neither of us really got any sleep, try as we did. But everything seemed to be going on the right direction so we can’t complain too much.
As we approached Isla Isabel in the early morning, we were taking bets on how many boats we’d find in the anchorage. We passed the Monas – the really amazing looking rock islands off the northeast side of the island and rounded to the southern anchorage to find…NO BOATS! We had the whole joint to ourselves! We anchored in the most ideal spot and made sure to put a floaty line with an empty plastic jug on it in the event our anchor got stuck and we had to disengage (losing our anchor is in our budget!) and hunkered down for a snooze to recover from our mostly wakeful night.
We had the island mostly to ourselves the entire time and we hiked almost every trail on the island (and bushwhacked a few times as well). Isla Isabel is a national park as well as an internationally protected area. It is home to thousands of frigate birds, boobies – blue and brown and other-footed types, and you can barely take a step without almost crushing an iguana. It was probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. Rather than regale you with my oh-so-engaging prose, I will make this mostly a pictorial, saving us all thousands and thousands of words. In the five days we were there, I took 472 pictures (including videos). I will try to keep this to the most representative.
On the 4th night, another boat came in and did a quick trip ashore and took off the next morning. Jonny helped them out by diving on their rudder and taking video of it with the GoPro, so they could see what they were up against for getting out of there (this place really has a reputation!). He also re-tied their float, which had come off and nearly floated away (not everyone is as obsessive about these things as we are).
Another boat came in the next day and we met Ola and Peter on Fukingivr [Say: FOO-kin-giv-r]. We decided we had climbed every mountain and were ready to set off for the 40 mile trip across to San Blas. As we were preparing to leave just after sunrise, another boat pulled in and dropped anchor. I could see they were from New Zealand and we had a nice chat on the radio as I filled them in on some of the best spots to see on the island and how to find them. They told me they were preparing to head back to New Zealand soon – they have spent the last 18 (EIGHTEEN!) years cruising. I so wished we could have spent more time with them. Fukingivr had left about an hour before us and we caught up and passed them as we headed to Mantenchen anchorage by sunset. Lest you get too impressed, their boat is 6 feet shorter than Summer, but we’ll take any win we can get! We were happy to have made it in before dark and were treated to a breathtaking sunset.
We decided to splurge a whole $10 and go into San Blas and get a slip in the cheapest of all Fonaturs for one night, before heading down to Chacala. We spent the day getting provisions (the banana bread is not to be missed) and cleaning up Summer. We had a fun and super cheap taco and ice cream night out with Peter and Ola. Mainland is always quite a bit less expensive than Baja, and San Blas especially. Ola was a landlubber from Canada, just along for the ride for a month (and somehow I still never got the story on that boat name). She thought Isla Isabel was ‘the most disgusting place’ she’d ever seen. Curious to see how their visit ends – hopefully we’ll run into Peter somewhere down the line. We thought we had missed most of the hype of the holidays, but San Blas was still rockin’ the Christmas music and the town square was unparalleled with its monolithic musical and lighted Christmas tree and the nativity scene containing a vast menagerie, which included an elephant and a turkey. That was all the entertainment I needed.
Despite the wonderful and friendly folks at the dock and the jejenes being not SO terrible, we did manage to pull out as planned the next morning and head to Chacala. It was a gorgeous day and we had an absolutely lovely beam reach sail the entire way. We even caught a huge sierra along the way – one of our favorites. I was reminded of the sailing we did in this area last year, which was also almost always quite nice – and it kind of hit me that the Sea of Cortez is not as friendly and calm as its reputation led me to believe. Thinking back to all our sails up there this summer, we had some pretty rough times and very few ‘absolutely perfect’ sailing days. That sea can definitely dole out the harshness!
Chacala was one of our favorite spots last year and it was nice to pull in to the familiar and beloved gorgeous views of colorful buildings and lush tropical greenery. It is known for being quite a rolly anchorage, so we immediately put out our stern anchor as we were getting settled. I managed to poach some internet from one of the hotels on shore, so it was nice to get caught up on a few things (and post the last blog entry). Since Chacala was already very familiar, and I already knew it was much prettier from the boat than on shore, and there was plenty of food on board, I was not feeling the pressure to GO! See! Do! I didn’t leave the boat for 2 days. It’s often hard to remember that sometimes I just need a few ‘days off’ to be a homebody. I’m not sure where it comes from, but there is a lot of pressure to be out exploring, having adventures, running errands. It’s just not a sustainable way to live in the long run. Jonny got to go out surfing several times, getting himself back into the swing of it after not having surfed the entire summer (the longest he’s gone in 30 years!). He was happy to get back to it and a little dismayed at how sore his ribs were.
When we did go ashore, we decide to take the bus to La Penita – the next town down that we had yet to visit. We ended up having to take a bus to Las Varas (which we’ve been to) and then to La Penita. It was nice wandering around somewhere new and getting super cheap Chinese food for lunch (which, in hindsight I can say was very good, since I didn’t get an MSG migraine!). We came upon an el Segundo (thrift store) and Jonny was able to get a new button down shirt for $3.50 (kind of pricey actually!) to replace the one he was wearing which had a huge rip down the back. Since he couldn’t see it, it seemed fine to him…but I insisted he get a new one. I forgot to bring my camera/phone with me, so you’re just going to have to trust me that we actually did this.
We thought we might stay for a long time in Chacala, but Jonny was getting itchy to get south to new territory and to the big surf, which he was suddenly chomping at the bit to get to. We knew we needed to make a stopover in La Cruz for provisions and I was looking forward to catching up with friends there. We had planned to go to Yelapa again (one of my all time favorites) afterwards and then finally round Cabo Corrientes to explore the southlands.
We had another gorgeous sail from Chacala to Punta de Mita. As we were sailing along and I was dozing in the sun, mulling over a number of recent thoughts, ideas and suggestions, I hit upon an idea for something I wanted to work on and am very excited to bring it to fruition. I’ll share it when the time is right – but I have a lot of energy for this new endeavor and look forward to making it happen. We anchored for the night in Punta de Mita and thought we might go out to the Tres Mariettas in the morning, for some sites we missed last time around. In the end we nixed that idea and went ashore instead and had the worst cheap tacos in a smoky stand near the bus stop. Can’t win ‘em all. We went back home and make the quick trip over to La Cruz. Another beautiful sail and we anchored down in the big La Cruz parking lot happily right near Resolute. The next morning I rowed over to say hi to Erik and Meagan (and Nikka – who almost pushed me overboard with her greeting kisses). It was just a quick visit as I was excited to go load up on fruits and veggies at the infamous La Cruz farmer’s market. On the row back, the pin that holds the oar to the boat snapped off. I quickly realized there was no way to row without the oar being attached. I was exactly halfway back, not really yelling distance to any boat and I hadn’t brought a radio. I was getting blown farther and farther away rather quickly. I ended up sticking the oar underneath the handgrip line on the dinghy and up against the oar holder part–it held it enough to get some purchase and row. I made it back to Summer just fine, only a little shaken up. Jonny was impressed with my quick thinking, and added “fix the oar” to his list of projects that day.
The Farmer’s Market did not disappoint, although I find myself less and less able to withstand crowds of people. The market is quite a crowded, happening spot and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But somehow as I was hurrying to the veggies tables, I got waylaid by the drum people. A table full of handmade, colorful drums of various types and a happy hippy guy banging away on one was hard for me to resist. I took drum lessons not all that long ago (rock and roll, not hippy) and have recently begun to really miss it. I think a wee-hours air drumming session, while listening to music and trying to keep myself awake on watch sparked it. I was very nearly about to pull myself away, all the drums were just too big to think about taking on board. But then I looked up and saw these much smaller ones hanging above me. I immediately knew I wanted one…badly. I played with it for a while and asked the price (far more reasonable than expected) but put it back and said I’ll see how many pesos I have left after all the food is purchased. I also felt pretty sure Jonny (who had left me immediately) would not allow such an expenditure. We loaded up on fresh, organic greens and fruits, fresh bread and farm cheeses and were ready to head back. I still wanted to drum. Jonny left me again, saying, “I’m not getting involved, I’ll be waiting for you at the dinghy”. That was about as close to a “go for it” as I could possibly get! I negotiated the price down to what I had left and chose the one with the least unattractive design painted on it (the couple who makes them lets their child decorate the drums). I was a happy sailor. So far Jonny hasn’t gotten annoyed at my banging.
I dinghied into shore and cruised the marina looking for friends. I found Lynne on Aldebaran, and Linger Longer. I learned that there was a bug or two going around and most people were sick. It sounds like the norovirus that hit all of us last year was STILL making the rounds.
We spend just over a week in La Cruz. We got our Mega provision run in, loaded up with water and fuel, got our propane tank filled and we got to catch up with friends (unfortunately we’d just missed Sang Vind). La Cruz is one of the few places where cruisers rule the roost. A huge number of cruisers spend vast amounts of time there and it’s not hard to see why. On our last stay in La Cruz we were visiting with out of town guest and spent most of our time on shore. We didn’t really get into the cruisers’ aspect of things or take advantage of the many resources available. The marina VIP lounge offers a large space for many classes and seminars on a variety of topics. Nearby a place called “Cruiser’s Comfort” offers internet, shower and a comfortable place to work. I spent many days on shore using the internet to work on my new idea. We also spent some time honing in on our long-term plans. We went to a seminar about cruising south to Panama. Jonny went to a fishing seminar.
When I was off ‘working’, Jonny got a lot of boat projects accomplished. Our engine hour meter had died on the crossing to Mazatlan, so we had to buy a new one (and keep track of the hours manually prior to installing). Boat engine maintenance and life expectancy is based on the number of hours it runs, so it’s important we keep track of that. He also broke out the sewing machine a few times and made a cover for the dinghy gas tank, a bag to stow lines and hatch covers for our top hatches. He did an excellent job! Looks like I don’t have to learn how to sew afterall. My Mom taught me how to sew when I was young and I made an absolutely horrific skirt and that was pretty much when my sewing career ended.
Speaking of young, La Cruz is just crawling with kid boats – that is, cruisers with children. While the cruising life is absolutely amazing for kids, and boat kids tend to be wonderfully well adjusted and very comfortable interacting with adults in all situations; but they struggle constantly to find other kids to hang out with. It seems that all boat kids are so desperate to meet other kids that once they find them they all instantly bond and adore each other, regardless of age differences. People in La Cruz have all kinds of activities for kids, cookouts, beach camp outs, macaroni and cheese cook-offs… there’s even a morning VHF net just for kids. It was kind of fun to observe the kids roaming around in small groups and simply loving being with each other. Also, it seems nearly impossible to live on a boat and be a spoiled brat – we learn on a daily basis how to deal with not getting our way and how shirking responsibilities can often be a matter of life and death. The ocean coddles no one and does not suffer slackers!
The anchorage was a lot rollier than I remember it being before. Spending most days off the boat made it more bearable, but no really sound sleep was to be had. As we came to the close of things we “must get done” we started paying closer attention to the weather and making our plans to escape. It looked like some big winds were coming and if we went to Yelapa as desired, we might get stuck for many days waiting for a calm time to round Cabo Corrientes (which can be notoriously awful – not unlike Point Conception in California). Yelapa can be extraordinarily rolly and due to the steepness and depth, it’s necessary to rent a mooring while there. We could potentially get stuck there waiting for the weather and paying for a lot more than just a couple nights. Also, Jonny was so overwhelmed with his need to get to surf that the dream of a few days in Yelapa started to seem like a silly idea. We had a short weather window; so getting ourselves down around the corner seemed like the right thing to do. We were also feeling pretty lucky not to have gotten sick yet, so better to quit while ahead.
We hit the Farmer’s Market one last time and loaded on the last provisions and had a final visit with Resolute (not a real goodbye, as we’re hoping to run into them again down south). We had a relaxing morning preparing to take off for our ~22 hour trip to Chamela. I was actually feeling quite relieved not to have to go ashore. Land life is quite exhausting! I was also feeling like I might be possibly getting one of the stomach bugs –as my guts hadn’t been right for a few days. I was hoping it was just due to all the eating out we’d been doing and I was looking forward to enjoying my own cooking again. As we got underway, the fermented pickle kraut and chinese herbs worked their magic and my guts started to feel normal. I hadn’t wanted to think about what could have happened on an overnight passage where I started out feeling awful! Luckily it was the opposite, I actually felt much better and I felt unusually good the entire passage.
We sailed off into the proverbial sunset and were excited about seeing new territory. I played my drum and we ate the last of my La Paz-made pesto and gnocchi for dinner and we were ready for whatever the night was to bring. Unfortunately sleeping was not so much on the agenda. Jonny wanted to be on watch for the first part of the night as we rounded Cabo Corrientes, since any number of things could happen rounding a point like that. It was fairly benign in the scheme of things, but it was incredibly rolly, just past the threshold of being able to sleep. So I tossed from ear to ear for 4 hours and couldn’t take it anymore. It started to calm down just as I got up to send Jonny down and he was snoring in no time. We were sailing downwind, and it was warm and wonderful. I read Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat and it took me a while to realize the pine and sage smells were coming from land and not my imagination as I read about old time Monterey. The land down here had a different kind of scent and it really did remind me of California. The wind switched on me and I had to jibe (and crawl forward to free the preventer line that got caught around the hatch) but otherwise it was an uneventful watch. I was starting to get painfully tired just when Jonny came up to relieve me. I was able to get a couple hours sleep finally.
Chamela Bay is large and beautiful – the golden sand beach goes on for miles and it’s fringed with palm trees and low homes and palapa restaurants fronted with chairs and umbrellas. It’s much warmer down here; the water is a near perfect 82 degrees and looks clear and inviting. It’s fairly calm but we did have a few rolly hours in the night. The wind event we just skirted in under is starting and we are enjoying the stiff breezes to keep us cool. There are 8 or 9 other boats here – none familiar, and all spread out at healthy distances. We are loaded up with food and I am looking forward to making my own chicken enchiladas, BBQ pulled pork and chocolate coconut macaroons. We are happy to spend a few days soaking in the views, swimming and relaxing before we brave the shore break to make landfall.
We waited out the supposed ‘wind event’ that was coming through Puerto Escondido area – hunkered down and ready for these 30 knot winds. They never materialized and we were only a little disappointed not to see how well we’d hold up in Honeymoon Cove in that sort of wind. We enjoyed a few more days there until a milder north wind forecast gave us a small window to fly south. Like migratory birds, we felt compelled to keep heading south until there was enough warmth and sunshine to comfortably spread our wings out in the cockpit.
Since the seasonally strong north winds were only easing up for short periods of time, we decided to make an overnight passage and go all the way to La Paz. There were a number of great places to stop along the way, but any stop could mean getting stuck for another week or so waiting for winds to die down. I was a little torn about missing some of the places we had hurried through on the way up, with the promise of “we’ll stop back on the way south”. But the teeth-chattering deck showers convinced me it was the right choice.
It was a blustery and rolly, rollicking ride down and while I didn’t actually get seasick, I didn’t feel great, either. Somewhere in the middle of the night on watch, I realized that not only were we missing stopping at some of my favorite spots, but we were passing them in the dark – I didn’t even get a glimpse. Ah well…maybe another time. Maybe not.
It felt good coming into La Paz – as always – a happy, familiar place. We anchored close to shore and a marina, in hopes of jacking some wifi with my booster. It was a rolly and noisy spot and the wifi didn’t work all that well, so after a couple nights we headed out to the Magote – the long spit of land that curves around from La Paz and forms the outside of the La Paz harbor. It’s calmer, prettier and quieter out there, and the wifi works not at all there, too.
We had, as usual, a whole list of chores to get through as fast as possible so we could continue heading south. I would have loved to take our time and have enjoyable days interspersed with the exhausting days, but that does not seem to be our way. The anchorage in La Paz is a pretty sketchy place, with opposing wind and currents making boats spin around and occasional pop anchor and even “kiss” other boats while doing the infamous “La Paz Waltz”. This situation makes the captain very nervous and unable to relax or be comfortable while we are anchored in La Paz. I, on the other hand, tend to worry about the unknown and the ‘potential possibilities’ far less than I probably should (I save up all my excessive and unhealthy worrying for things that are actually happening). But when it comes to the safety of our boat, I always defer to the Captain, since I’m pretty sure my casual attitude about things would have sunk us a few times over already. So hurry we did.
Our friends on Orion finally arrived and shortly after them, Sang Vind anchored next to us. La Paz was the stopping off point for their 3 crew members that had been along for the past month. We quickly made plans to get together for the famous 2 for 1 Pizza Night at Harker Board. We also discovered that the movie we just noticed playing at the cinema near Mega “In the Heart of the Sea” happened to have our friend Frans from Sang Vind in it! I never got the full story as to how he happened into the part, but he was a crew member on the ship (no speaking part, but with a brilliant death scene). He apparently worked on it for quite some time. Dinner and a movie became our 11 person date for that night. We were all pretty excited to see Frans on the big screen. After our 2 for 1 pizzas and organizing 3 cabs to get us to the theater, we discovered it was also ½ price night at the theater! Tickets were around $3. If all that weren’t exciting enough, we entered the theater to discover it will filled with cushy, leather-like reclining love seats! We were all giggling like a bunch of children (well, except for the 2 children, they were pretty well behaved). We finally settled down with our snacks in our recliners and watched carefully for glimpses of Frans. We all cheered and yelled every time we saw him. It was a bit distracting from watching the movie though – I never realized how focused the camera ALWAYS is on the stars and minimizes everyone else. I have to say I was a bit relieved when Frans died so that I could relax and just watch the rest of movie.
We had a long, late night trek back to the marina with everyone giddy to be in the midst of a movie star. I was thankful to have a dry dinghy ride back out to Summer – a nice end to one of the most fun evenings we’ve had in a very long time.
The rest of our time in La Paz involved going to the Farmer’s Market (twice) and loading up on all sorts of organic fruits, veggies and herbs, and even a whole chicken, and we made our pilgrammage to all the big grocery stores. I got some internet time at the cyber café (which is where the last blog was posted). I also managed to get to a dermatologist and a dentist, just to keep on top of my health. We got propane, gas, diesel, all that exciting stuff.
On our last morning I heard someone announcing on the morning net that they had a very small inflatable boat to trade for ‘coconuts’ (that’s what people say when they are selling something – because, technically it’s illegal for non-Mexicans to sell things here). I had really been wanting another form of transportation so that neither of us would ever be trapped on the boat when the other wanted to do something else. I know we don’t have a lot of room for another full size dinghy, and we hadn’t been able to find an affordable inflatable kayak and a SUP was not all that appealing. I called the boat and tried to arrange to get together to see it before we left. It ended up working out that the guy, Christian, could meet us on shore before he had to go to work – and show us the dinghy in his onshore storage locker. We went up to the designated meeting spot (at Club Cruceros) and waited for quite a while. I finally spotted a guy wearing camouflage shorts (he said he would be dressed in camo). I walked up to him and got his attention and said “Hi, are you Christian?”. The guy gave me a bit of a horrified look and said “uhhhhhh, nooooooo”. I realized what must be going on in that poor guy’s head and I tried not to laugh hysterically as I apologized and said I was looking for someone in camo clothes. I didn’t explain that the name of the person I was looking for was Christian, so that guy will just have to live with the mystery. We finally met up with Christian and went to look at his dinghy. It was not a cheap rubber inflatable as we’d feared, but it was a teeny, tiny miniature version of Peugeot! It was SO cute and not in bad shape. It rolled up into a pretty small package with it’s own case with oars and a pump – that I could even carry myself. We negotiated a good deal and off we went with our tiny second car. I was pretty excited, imaging myself rowing ashore while Jonny was fishing or surfing, or rowing out to visit other boats while Jonny preferred to stay in. Since our new boat was like a “mini-me” version of Peugeot, I decided to call her “Mini-P”.
We finished our last chores and headed out La Paz for the quick trip down to Balandra for the night and then on to Bahia de Los Muertos to wait for a good weather window to jump across to Isla Isabel, San Blas and then Chacala in time for Christmas.
We had a bit of a cold and rolly night in Balandra and didn’t get to really see any of this, one of my all-time favorite spots. We left just after sun up in wild and rough seas. Plenty of wind in the right direction for a fast trip down to Muertos. Unbeknowst to me, Jonny’s back had been bothering him for some time, and apparently pulling up the anchor in the rough conditions tweaked a vertebra out of place for him. But the time we anchored down in Muertos, he was in a lot of pain. We tried massaging and resting (keeping him at rest is no easy feat). But he clearly wasn’t getting better. I noticed that his body went off at an angle from his waist up – he was definitely out of whack! But here we were in Bahia de los Muertos –a beautiful bay with just 2 restaurants and some private vacation rentals. After a few days of taking it easy and no relief from the pain, we started to weigh our options for getting him some help. Sailing back north (beating up into strong winds) to La Paz seemed like a bad idea – not only a rough 11 hour trip, in the wrong direction, but an uncomfortable anchor spot for him in the end. The nearest town is 12 miles from there, which is the nearest place to catch a bus back to La Paz. One of the restaurants had a night guard who ended work at 6:00am and could probably give us a ride to the town to catch the latest bus to La Paz at 8:00am. Then we would have to find a place to stay, eat out and take taxis while trying to locate a recommended chiropractor or osteopath. It all seemed very complicated and expensive. We waited a few more days.
It became clear our original plans were no longer possible, and now we were looking at maybe making it to Isla Isabel to spend Christmas there. The only problem with that is it’s a remote and desolate island. No place to buy shrimp! And as far as I’m concerned, the true meaning of Christmas is SHRIMP. Every Christmas Eve, everyone on my Dad’s side of the family sits down to mountains of floured shrimp fried in olive oil and a special ‘Christmas sauce’ and spaghetti – just like Grandma used to make and all of her family in Italy for as far back as anyone knows. I could live without being able to make any phone calls, only sending wishes via SSB radio, but honestly I didn’t think I could do without shrimp. I’m not sure if you’ve sensed the theme here, but for me holidays = food. I took the dinghy ashore myself one day to see if there was any way to arrange to get the restaurant to sell us some shrimp or make an order with their delivery person or what. As I was landing I met the other couple in the anchorage aboard Wasabi (Karen and Al ? I might have that wrong, because my Mom has a dear and wonderful friend named Karen who is married to an Al, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard). They had arranged for someone to drive them into the nearest village for supplies. I wanted to jump at the chance to go with them, but I had promised Jonny I’d be right back to make him lunch. I had a drink while they awaited their ride and they agreed to have a look for shrimp for me. Not long after I returned to the boat I heard a dinghy pull up – a kilo of shrimp delivered right to our companionway! What luck! I paid them and thanked them profusely. Now, wherever we ended up, Christmas was saved!
Another boat arrived and we soon met Damon and Desiree on a beautiful junk rigged boat named Gia. They are about our age, and really cool people. I enjoyed hanging out with them while Jonny was incapacitated. They ended up convincing Jonny to try a muscle relaxer and do some stretching and massage to try and get his back to pop back into place. It seemed to help him a bit, but he was still going to need to see someone. I tried to convince my dear friend and chiropractor Dr. Frogley, to fly down to Cabo and meet us, but apparently he already had plans for the holiday (he did share as much advice as he could, though).
We ultimately decided that we would attempt a crossing to Mazatlan. It was the shortest crossing we could do (2 nights) and brought us to a Fonatur marina we’d stayed at before in large city and in roughly the direction we wanted to go. Given the winds, it was likely we would be motoring most of the way, meaning less sail handling work and less worries. It was a bit rolly the first night, and the boat took a roll when Jonny was trying to get up from his bunk, and gave him a jolt that popped his back – he felt a measure of immediate relief! He was still sore and looking a bit crooked, but his pain had dropped quite a lot and he was able to manage the crossing and watches quite well. Whew! He even caught a gorgeous tuna and we luxuriated in pan-seared ahi for three meals.
There was pretty much no wind and we had to motor nearly the entire way. A bit of an expensive prospect, but given our circumstances, and how else things could have gone, I think we were incredibly lucky. We got across quickly and with no incidents. We arrived into Mazatlan at high tide and got in through the narrow and shallow harbor mouth, passing inches away from the dredge. It was Christmas eve and we were looking forward to tying up in a slip and having a nice shrimp dinner. Unfortunately there were no slips available! We tied up at the fuel dock (we needed fuel anyway) and were told that a boat was leaving that afternoon and we could have their slip as soon as they were gone. Unfortunately they were not able to leave – the tide was low and the dredger was blocking the entrance so they had to come back to the slip for the night. We were allowed to stay at the fuel dock overnight – not ideal, but better than nothing! We took a little walk to an upscale sort of market and managed to get a good bottle of wine to have with our Shrimpmas feast. We were both so exhausted that after enjoying our dinner we were passed out for the night by 8:30 pm. The folks in our slip were out late the next morning – and I was actually kind of glad they hadn’t left – otherwise we never would have met them! Nice couple I am looking forward to hanging out with somewhere down south. The woman working in the office of the Fonatur remembered me from when we stayed in March. She also had a chiropractor to recommend – an American guy her husband had seen. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw his name written down – Dr. Backman.
Given that we had not planned to stay in a marina we did not have the usual frantic list of projects we needed to get done. That doesn’t mean the captain didn’t start a list, but it was far more relaxed than other marina stays. I did manage to get 6 loads of laundry done, got Mini-P blown up and tested (I love her!), grocery shopping of course and a few chiropractor visits. Jonny was starting to feel better and then he spent an entire day making a fabric template for dinghy chaps (covers for Peugeot) and he felt pretty bad the next day. Taking it easy was not on his list.
We noticed Arluk in the marina across the way and reconnected with our friends Wayne and Cyndie who were next to us in the marina in Chula Vista CA. Back in the days before we’d all headed into Mexican waters. They invited us over for an evening of sundowners and tasty food and it was fun to catch up and hear all their trials and tribulations cruising around Mexico.
The week in Mazatlan went fast – I never even got back to old town. But we did get to walk around the huge white church turned discotheque / restaurants. Luckily it is situated at the end of the road Mega is on and a few blocks down from the chiropractor. We were able to fit in a quick look-see before our big provisioning trip to Mega.
We also to glimpse the beaches of Mazatlan for the first time. Given that we are spoiled rotten when it comes to beaches, we were not very impressed. Every inch is built up with hotels and restaurants– it’s almost impossible to find a way onto the beach! They are also not the cleanest beaches I’ve seen by far. The “Gold Zone” was definitely not for us, we had passed it by on our last visit, but seeing as the chiropractor was located smack in the middle of it all, we decided to have a look around. I could see how it has a certain appeal for some types of vacationers. When searching for an alleyway to the beach, we passed through a sort of open-air sports bar jammed between buildings – no view of anything but the many TVs and buildings surrounding it. It was crammed full of older Gringos and not a-one of them looked like they were having a good time as they scowled at us passers-by. What a way to spend a vacation! It’s busy and overwhelming for someone not used to so much human-generated stimulation.
Our week at the marina went by fast and came to an end at the end of the year. We headed out at high tide in the morning for a short trip out to Isla Venado – less than a mile from the city. We squeezed by the dredging machine with just a few feet to spare and the crew was hamming it up for the camera.
We anchored near the end of the beach – almost directly across from the big white church turned nightclub and waited for the inevitable fireworks display at midnight. As you can see, I was really partying hard. Coming back to life near midnight was well worth it. We were treated to several miles worth of fireworks displays up and down the coastline.
The first day of 2016 was a bit chilly and blustery. We didn’t feel it was a good day to hop in the dingy and go ashore. We entertained ourselves by watching the antics of all the boats and jet-skis coming and going around us. A young couple’s jetski died on them, kind of in the center of the 3 boats at anchor. The guy, for some reason, took OFF his life jacket and jumped in the water. I’m not sure what he was thinking of doing, swim-towing it? It must have gotten away from him because at one point they got our attention again when the woman let out a blood-curdling scream. Our dinghy was not in the water, so we could not go rescue them, and one of the other boats had gone ashore and the third boat was loading up in their dinghy, although not with any intentions of helping these folks. We considered calling someone on the radio for them but didn’t know whom. We figured the owners of the jetski rental place would be watching their investment carefully, and sure enough before long a panga came out and took them all back. The woman couldn’t get off that jet-ski fast enough. They are going to have a great story to tell when they get home!
On the second day of the year we were ready to make our fourth attempt at visiting Isla Isabel – the National Park and Internationally protected island, which by all accounts is magical and spectacular. Curiosity is killing us. Before taking off for the overnight passage, we managed to get ashore on Isla Venado in the morning for a quick hike up to the summit and take in the wonderful views.
By late afternoon we were ready to weigh anchor. Dinner was made and on the stove in case it was too rolly to cook and everything was stowed safely away. Will we make it through another overnight passage? Will we finally get to set foot on Isla Isabel? And will the winds and the anchorage famous for ‘eating anchors’ treat us kindly?? Stay tuned!
AND…A BIG THANK YOU goes out to Van and Susan for their wonderful Christmas gift to the Summer cruising kitty! Here’s Summer’s lucky day when she was piloted by the venerable Cap’n Van:
We of course spent more time in Guaymas than originally planned. There was a strong north wind we were waiting out before crossing back to Baja. Having three days extra meant we didn’t have to bust our butts quite as hard to get all our projects done, but it still seemed we went nonstop the entire time we were there and barely finished every last thing as we pulled away from port.
Getting food was a priority (isn’t it always?). We decided to trek up to the big Soriana grocery store to see if it would be the best place for our big provision later in the week. It was supposed to be a quick trip and we left at noon to walk up there and find some lunch on the way. We didn’t get home till after 5:00pm. There was lunch, and the fabric store (and us with a ‘new’ sewing machine) and then there was this big hill with a park at the top of it that we just had to figure out how to get to. And the views were well worth it! It’s always fun to get ‘the big picture’ of places. Sadly, this Soriana was not “it” and fell far short of what we were hoping for, but we enjoyed the visit at any rate. It seems the rumors of Walmart being THE place to get the best produce etc., were true and we were going to have to bite the bullet and bus it out there.
Boat projects included removing the leaking handrail, digging out the holes and filling with epoxy and replacing it (that took days and days), Cleaning, polishing and waxing all the stainless (my pet project), cleaning out our water tanks, changing the oil in the dinghy motor, changing filters/maintenance on Summer’s motor, cleaning the barnacles and green slime off the dinghy (and stowing it for the passage), getting a blog entry posted, getting propane tank, diesel and gas tanks filled, cleaning every inch of Summer – inside and out (freewheeling water! Whoo hoo!), doing tons of laundry and a number of other things I’ve already forgotten…
We listened carefully to the weather and checked all the online sources to find a good time to jump across. A big wind was coming and if we didn’t leave by Saturday, we could be stuck in Guaymas for another week. Neither of us felt like we wanted to do that. While I really did enjoy the city and liked all the exploring we did, it was still a city and cities have a way of sucking money right off your person. It’s just too easy to stop into the juice place for a drink, or the bakery for a treat or, grab some tacos for lunch or, or…and suddenly you’ve spent a bunch of extra money on top of what you were already out and about to accomplish, which usually involved spending money. We scrambled to get every last thing done and pulled away from the dock by late morning, waving goodbye to all our new friends – ready for our 22 hour journey.
This trip replaces the trip from Santa Rosalia as “#2 Worst Passage Ever”. As we were leaving the harbor area of Guaymas (and it’s sort of like trying to leave Chula Vista to get to the ocean – it’s a big harbor and took us about an hour just to get clear of it) -we had a little bit of rain and there was lightning on the horizon. Lightning is not something you really want to see when you’re on the open sea with a 55 foot metal pole sticking up into the air. We could see a few storms and we contemplated turning back, but the storms appeared to be heading towards us, and heading back would could mean just prolonging our time in storms. So we decided to try to skirt around them – steering to the south where the skies were clear and avoiding being underneath the dark, black clouds spewing lightning. It was a little exciting at first, I felt like someone on those “Storm Chaser” weather channel shows… but it soon got serious. We were way to far to turn back, and as I said, turning back wouldn’t have done us any good. We realized we might not get to San Juanico and would probably have to go someplace further south, and not get to be there. Jonny took a video at the beginning, before things got really crazy. I thought he was using the wind meter, not taking video, so sorry I wasn’t hamming it up. I was a little busy anyway. But please do notice how the stainless solar arch, I so painstakingly polished, glints in the sun!
The wind picked up considerably as did the waves. We soon found ourselves in 8-10 foot seas with 30-40 knots of wind. Definitely a first for us and Summer (we’ve maybe seen 20 gusting to 25 while underway). The direction we wanted to go became irrelevant, survival was the only thing to focus on. We were headed much more southeast (we wanted to go southwest) in an attempt to stay at a good angle not to get rolled by waves and not to round up into the wind and not get hit by lightning. It’s a boat’s natural tendency to want to head into the wind and, left unattended a boat will do just that. I was fighting the wheel with all my might to keep the boat from rounding up, and then having to quickly turn back to keep from going too far downwind. I did this for six hours. Jonny and I briefly reviewed what to do should the boat get knocked down (meaning the mast is laying on top of the water – which I was fully expecting to experience) – it’s quite simple: DO NOT LET GO OF THE BOAT (even if fully upside down, the boat will likely right itself). I was soon clipped in to help with this.
Our hull speed is around 6 knots- I saw the knotmeter register 8 and tried not to look at it anymore. The wind was so strong it was blowing sheets of water around and it looked like smoke everywhere. I refused to look behind me – Jonny’s reactions to the waves were enough and I knew if I actually saw them I might be too terrified to function. He said some of the waves coming up on us were higher than the solar panels. I just focused on keeping us upright and reminding myself of facts, like, we have a 6,000 lb. keel and this wind speed and wave height are not likely to flip our boat, no matter how much it FEELS like it will happen. Remembering stories of people who’ve survived waves higher than their masts, etc. was also helpful. Jonny had to go forward to try to lower the sail, we were already reefed down but it was still too much sail. He fought for a long time to try and get the sail down, it was pinned to the stays and wouldn’t budge. He got it down mostly and we went 5-6 knots with no sails for quite some time. In a surprising twist, Jonny started feeling dangerously seasick and I thought I was doing pretty well. He really wanted to take some Zofran – an anti-nausea pill (my sister had generously supplied us with a few earlier this year for just such an emergency). It was up to me to go down below to find them – which I knew was going to be the kiss of death (seasick- wise) for me. But down I went. I sustained a few bruises from being thrown around in the head, but I got the pills.
We knew it was going to be a long night and probably not OK for either of us to be incapacitated. I was dreading the dark, when you can’t anticipate how to react until after whatever is going to happen, happens. We took a number of waves over the aft quarter and I was soaked from head to toe, and started getting chilly as the sun went down. Luckily the wind abated a bit and we were left with just very rolly seas. As I started shivering, I knew I’d better take a zofran too, although I was a bit worried about other side affects of sleepiness or who knows what with me (most things seem to have opposite side affects on me, so there was a chance I could be wired?). Things calmed to the point we could let Moses (our awesome CPT Autopilot) take over the steering and the wind switched, allowing us to head more towards San Juanico. I went down below to change. I did not come back up…while I never actually threw up, I came awfully close and spent at least an hour in the head hugging the toilet, ‘just in case’ (I realized after a small vurp, that barfing on the rolling and pitching settee, in the dark, would be a huge disaster) and was I unable to do anything useful for feeling so sick. I WAS able to wonder why the hell we do this?? I also got a huge headache and ringing in my ears, so, I’m not entirely convinced the zofran was a good thing for me, although it seemed to work fine for Jonny (maybe if I’d been barfing for days and couldn’t stop, it would be a good thing for me?). Anyway, I felt awful and ended up burying my head under blankets down below, unable to move. Jonny managed to keep watch all night and things got considerably less wild after midnight, but it was a rolly ride the whole way and most unpleasant for me.
I’ve noticed (again) how sometimes sailing simplifies things (or at least crams it all into a short, intense period of time, so you can’t help but notice) and you see lessons that can also be applied to more complicated parts of life: Sometimes you cannot go in the direction you want to go, sometimes your survival is all that matters, and when things calm down again, you may be able to continue on your path, or you may have to abandon your original plans and find a new path. Can any one relate to that?
In the morning when I finally emerged, I could see land and familiar mountains near San Juanico. As lush, alive and exciting as mainland is, arriving in Baja always feels like coming ‘home’ to me for some reason. Jonny said the same thing as I was thinking it.
San Juanico had about 5 boats, 3 of whom we knew. It’s always nice to get welcomed with people waving and someone blowing a conch. We found a spot among all the other boats, said hi to a few friends who came by, secured everything and ate some food and settled in for a nap. Jonny slept from 11:30 am till 6:00 pm, ate dinner and then we slept for 9 more hours. It was so calm and quiet and dark that first night. Lovely. Strong winds were predicted for the next few days so we had no idea how long we would stay or if we could even get off the boat much. But that was fine with me – we had plenty of food and lots of books. Our spot did get quite rolly the second night, so we moved out on the far side of the bay, where there was only one boat. We were a bit like pariahs, but we were OK with that. It took us two days to even get our dinghy put together and into the water. We had a bit of recovering to do! We missed a few of the fun times with everyone else there, but we were just spent and really needed some quiet time to recover from our very eventful and very social past few weeks.
San Juanico is a huge bay. There are at least 5 beaches, each with a different look and feel – everything from all rocky to white sands. I was very glad to be away from the city and done with so many projects – my lungs started feeling clearer right away! The far northern beach is home to the cruiser’s shrine tree. When we stopped through in July, we visited the shrine and vowed we’d come up with something really cool to leave there on the way back. We had all summer to work on it. And we didn’t. We ended up leaving our mark after a bit of debate and effort, and if you want to see what it is, you’ll just have to go to San Juanico and look for it. It was fun to spot some of our friends’ creative offerings.
There was quite a lot of wind and it was not conducive to tooling around in the dinghy. We did a little snorkeling – but the water is considerably cooler now. Water temperature was 76 – not the 85 we’ve come to enjoy and bathing was a teeth-chattering prospect. Even wearing Jonny’s neoprene rash guard, which fit me like a dress, I ended up quite numb! Combined with the howling wind, the cooler temps made washing off a teeth-chattering and unpleasant experience. It’s not like we didn’t know it was coming, but it still seems like the seasons changed so fast. The blankets come out at night and suddenly there are a lot more clothes around. I can even wear my hair down without wanting to hack it off for the heat on my neck.
We did manage to get one quiet wind day and we dinghied down to the southern end of the bay to try to find the petroglyphs we heard about. From the water, the ravine where they were supposed to be looked like an easy walk. Unfortunately the strong winds had caused considerable wave action and landing on that beach did not look like a safe idea if we were interested in staying somewhat dry. We briefly wondered if we were getting soft… We went down one more beach and that one seemed a little more reasonable place to land.
We had a bit of walk to the next beach over and then tried to figure out how to get up to the rocky area, which turned out to be much farther away than it originally appeared. There was a mostly dried up creek that seemed to be coming from where we wanted to go. With some sand dune climbing, bush whacking and hiking up through the rocky dried creek bed, we eventually came to the lush, giant boulder amphitheater / cave-like area. We had no idea where these petroglyphs were or where to find them. I sat down on a rock, looking up into the steep cliff and boulders ahead, thinking we should probably try to scale up into them and look for a cave or something. As I looked over to my right, I gasped – PETROGLYPHS!! I was sitting right next to some! It turned out all the ones we found were very low to the ground. Clearly the area we were in had been filled in with rocks and sand from the water that rushes through there (or used to?) and it had once been deeper and more protected caves. We found a variety of faint images on the rocks in this area. I have no idea who did the paintings or how old they really are. Some people speculate they are maybe not ‘real’ authentic cave paintings. I have to wonder what the cut-off age is for something to be a breath-taking piece of history as opposed to just ho-hum graffiti. Someday will future generations be digging out and crawling into the ancient highway underpasses of what was once “America” and be fascinated by the gang symbols, curse words and bizarre alphabet the ancients used, and taking paint samples to discern just what material came out of our spray cans? For all we know, these petroglyphs are just the annoying, illegal work of ancient hoodlums. But at any rate, I find them fascinating and was very excited to see all of them.
There appeared to be a break in the winds again, (we sat out the first opportunity to head south) and we finally decided we were ready to move on. We made the relatively short trip down to Isla Coronado – the same one we stayed at in late July (where I spent my birthday). When reviewing our log book, Jonny discovered that exactly one year ago that day marked our arrival in Ensenada, Mexico. We felt it was something to celebrate. I also feel like “What, only a year and we are already getting into re-runs?” Sorry.
We had a few lovely days at Isla Coronado – finally back to the truly gorgeous waters that just make me want to melt into them. The fact that it is too cold to just jump in several times a day and meld with the water is a bit frustrating though! We were the only boat there for most of it (save for a day visit from the Safari Endeavor – a smallish adventure cruise ship). I believe some of our friends were on the other side of the island, which was the ‘right’ side to be on given the wind, but we decided to see how it was on the prettier side and it was just fine!
We were getting a bit low on food, as it had been about 2 weeks since leaving Guaymas. We planned to make a stop over in Loreto for supplies – as we did on the way up. Open roadstead anchorage, not comfortable for an overnighter – which is sad because I would love to be able to spend time in Loreto. It’s got such charm and good vibes, I always loved our stops there when we used to drive into Baja. We left super early to get there and get out before the winds picked up. It was just a 6 mile run and we motored the whole way in flat calm seas. I had NO idea what we were going to find in terms of supplies – I had a secret hope that I might actually find a turkey, seeing as it was the day before Thanksgiving. We didn’t even have a plan for where we were going to go after Loreto. It was dependent on a number of things – such as winds, if we got a good enough load of stuff to pull off something Thanksgiving-ish, if we wanted to go hang with the crowds at Puerto Escondido, did we want to just go back to Isla Coronado to wait out the winds, how far south did we want to go, knowing there was no going back north? We were feeling particularly indecisive. So, we shopped first and figured the rest would come to us. We ran into Tom and Claire, whom we’d met in San Juanico – they were doing the same Loreto supply run as us and landed at the docks right when we did. They hadn’t been there before so we gave them the five cent tour – here’s the old church, the tourist row, here’s where you buy the good vanilla, here are the various markets…. We showed them the ropes and eventually went off to do our own shopping.
I was surprised to find some frozen turkeys at one of the markets. I had my ‘wish list’ of Thanksgiving supplies and somehow managed to get almost everything. THANKGIVING IS ON! I was bound and determined to cook a turkey feast in my little galley. I had the guy in the market searching the back for the smallest turkey he could find. Unfortunately 6.5 kilos was it. That’s 14.3 pounds, people! Yikes! I had NO idea how or if I was going to be able to fit this thing in my oven. But I was too fired up to worry about that. I found fresh cranberries, and even some marjoram (key spice in the stuffing!). The only thing lacking was pumpkin. No pumpkins, fresh or canned to be had. In the last minute I grabbed a huge can of yams, thinking “sweet potato pie” that’s close, right? So now we were fully laden with all manner of foods and the makings for Thanksgiving. I was very grateful to have my new cart to lug all this food around town. Not being weighted down with heavy bags meant my feet didn’t get a pounding and my plantar fasciitis can continue to heal (heel?).
Now we just had to figure how WHERE we were going to perform this Thanksgiving miracle. We were hungry, so we lugged our considerable grocery load to a restaurant to get some lunch. Yes, it felt really weird to bring a load of food to a restaurant and then order more food… But eating and sitting seemed to be an important component to decision-making. We ended up meeting a really nice couple of ex-pats at the restaurant and chatting with them cut into our decision-making time. We were nearly finished eating and still no idea where we were going. For some reason neither of us was really feeling like going to Puerto Escondido. It’s crowded and expensive and it’s not that pretty and there’s nothing really to do there (except try to get a ride to Loreto). We knew we needed to stop there to get water and fuel, so we didn’t want to go south of there. That limited our options a bit. We also realized it was getting too late in the day to do our chores there and then go somewhere else. One of our favorite spots on the way up was Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, which is just across the way from Puerto Escondido. It has three coves that can hold one boat each. We decided to try to go there and see if there was room for us.
We wanted to be near Escondido in the event that Hurricane Sandra (post-hurricane season!) took a turn for the worst, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to try to stay there. There are three areas (aside from the Fonatur marina) in there – one anchorage is wide open and you are charged nearly $10/day just to anchor there, the ‘ellipse’ anchorage (which, surprisingly is round) is fairly deep and also has in and out and daily fees, and ‘the waiting room’ is a deeper anchorage which is supposed to cost $1/day but no one really pays I guess. There are mooring balls there that are not owned or maintained and you can take one at your own risk if you can find one. Also, that whole place is kind of a ‘scene’ with people who’ve lived there for 20 years and all the politicky stuff that goes on in small communities where people don’t have a lot else to do. We just weren’t feeling it (listening to their morning net was quite enough, and very entertaining). So, Honeymoon it was! We would keep an eye on the weather and go from there, but it seemed we could stay put there for all of Thursday at any rate.
We got underway after stowing all our food. I began to think of all the work ahead of me for pulling off this meal. The turkey was thawing nicely in the cockpit and I finally couldn’t take the suspense. I had to see if it would fit in the oven. With the oven rack resting on the floor of the oven, this bird fit just barely in my pan and slid into the oven with barely a finger’s width of space at the top. I had NO idea if it would cook properly, or if the bottom would burn or what (the heat comes from flames under a metal covering at the floor of the oven) – but I was determined to give it a go. Yes, I could have cut up the turkey and cooked it in pieces, but, to be honest, the only things I truly care about are stuffing and gravy, and cooking stuffing inside a whole turkey is really the only way to get it tasting just how I like it. The giblets and neck are how you get the gravy, so even if the bird got messed up, I could have stuffing and gravy. Yeah, I’m a little crazy about this meal, as it’s probably one of my all time favorite meals when I get to make it my way. I realized I’d better get started right away. So I made piecrust and attempted this sweet potato pie (I was skeptical it would come out) and then I made the cranberry sauce. I never liked cranberry sauce when I thought it was something cylindrical that you sliced, but sauce from fresh cranberries is quite a treat. With that done, my only task for Thursday was to make the stuffing, gravy and potatoes, stuff the bird and fit it in the oven. I decided something green was just too much to ask. I couldn’t even begin to think of how impossible it might to be to store the leftovers.
I discovered something new about my oven – it doesn’t actually go below 350 degrees. The turkey cooked really fast! But miraculously it came out nearly perfect. The gravy was to die for and the stuffing was “ok” (I had to wing it with the spices and the ratio wasn’t quite the “Bell’s Stuffing Seasoning” I’d hoped for). But all in all it was a delicious Thanksgiving and I managed to fit all the leftovers in the fridge. Truly a Thanksgiving miracle. I try to always be thankful for what I have and the people in my life, so of course we spent some time reiterating what we are thankful for and climbing the hill to make some phone calls. But I’ll admit it, it’s really about the stuffing and gravy.
Hurricane Sandra ended up fizzling out and never causing Baja much trouble, so that was a relief. However, the wind was predicted to blow hard from the Northwest for quite some time – as it is wont to do this time of year. We figured being holed up at Honeymoon Cove wasn’t the worst place to be. We had considered going to the southeast side of Isla Carmen, but we weren’t sure what it would be like in this wind and figured it would be better to be close to Escondido just in case. We didn’t have quite enough water to go for five days so we made a quick hop over to Puerto Escondido to get some water at the Fonatur marina and top off our gas and diesel tanks. Last time we were there, they made a big deal of reading the water meter and charging us for the water we used, so I went to find a Fonatur guy and ask him about using the water. This guy had NO idea what I was talking about when I asked (in perfect Spanish, mind you) if I could get some water for our boat. He looked at me like I was speaking Martian or something. I asked in everyway I could and he finally said “uhhh aqua?” and pointed to the fuel dock, I pointed to our boat and asked if we could just use the water there. He shrugged. I confirmed it was OK to use the water and he said “si”…so I guess the water was free that day! We washed down Summer, filled up all our tanks, rinsed some rags and the unfortunate towel that the turkey pan was set on (and got covered in gravy). I even went and found the bathroom doors open, so I hopped in for a shower. Only cold water, but there was no wind in there, so it was a big bonus – I didn’t come out with numb hands and chattering teeth. I went to check out the little tienda to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without (and get a beer for Jonny). There were a couple shelves with fresh veggies, so I took the opportunity to grab a few more potatoes to go with our leftovers. When I went to check out it came to 95 pesos. That seemed awfully high so I asked how much the beer was – 35 pesos, about right…so…uh, that meant 4 potatoes cost 60 pesos??? Yep, she confirmed potatoes were 15 pesos EACH – that’s nearly a dollar for one potato. I decided we didn’t really need potatoes and I put them all back (I paid 11 pesos for 6 of the exact same potatoes at the grocery store!). That incident just added to the annoying-ness of Puerto Escondido. I ran into Marya who I’d met in San Juanico – she was trying to use the internet and was extremely annoyed that it was very slow (and she was paying to use it) –so I didn’t try to chat long with her. There is supposed to be internet in Puerto Escondido, but everyone is always complaining about it not working. In general all the folks we meet on the docks are super friendly and it’s a very social place, but still we just couldn’t seem to find a reason to drop anchor anywhere in there. We got the fuel topped off and we were on our way. On the way out we were chased down by a dinghy – and Meagan, Jonah and Nia were in it! So great to see those guys – they were all out in the Waiting Room and tried to convince us to take a mooring ball out there. It would have been really fun to hang out with everyone (the one and only benefit of PE that I can see)…but the beauty and tranquility of Honeymoon Cove was just too big of a draw. I’m not a big fan of having to bathe in a crowded anchorage – aside from the lack of privacy, jumping overboard in the middle of a group of boats, when you know everyone is flushing their toilets overboard, just kind of grosses me out. In more remote areas where boats are farther apart, I believe that it’s none of my business what someone sees through their binoculars.
We were soon back to our little cove, a little slice of heaven – it was a bit of a rough crossing and we took a number of waves over the bow – not a big deal, but jeeeez I’d JUST hosed her down! We were determined to set the anchor good and deep to weather the upcoming blow. We tried 4 times and couldn’t get it to bite. We were both getting cranky and needed to eat lunch. After a huge plate of leftover thanksgiving goodness, we were ready to try again. Jonny dove in and checked the bottom and discovered it was all shale and rock there was no way the anchor would set in that. We had to move out to a bit deeper water just a little ways over and we were able to set it good in sand, about 30 feet deep –a bit deeper than normal, but we felt we would be secure and we were in a good position to get protection from the island in the big northwest blow.
There was a tiny cove just to the left of us with a beautiful little beach and gorgeous aqua water. There are great hiking trails all over the island as well. We discovered that there is also excellent cell phone signal at the top of the hill!
Tour boats often bring people into that cove for a swim or lunch break. When we came down from one of our hike we discovered a large white man sitting on our dinghy eating his tour group sandwich. My first thought was “Would you sit on the hood of a stranger’s car and eat your lunch in a parking lot??”. Seriously, what on earth do people think??? I know we often have local children playing on our dinghy and that doesn’t surprise me in the least, but a grown man visiting a foreign country? It just seemed awfully rude to me. Jonny tapped him on the shoulder so we could launch and go back home and I guess he just said “uh… oh thanks for the time!”. How weird!
We took advantage of a calm morning to dinghy down to the next couple coves and just have a look. They were just gorgeous! On the way back we stopped to say hi to Carola, anchored in the cove down from us (the most beautiful cove, too, it’s where we first anchored in July – but they were there before us this time). Cliff and Maryanne have a beautiful Summer-sized boat and are down from the Bay Area (ish) for a couple more weeks. Cliff was worried about running out of reading material as we were stuck there waiting for the wind to abate – his laptop died and that’s where all his kindle books were stored. I offered to share my book collection with him. They came over in the afternoon and Maryann brought a delicious chocolate cake (her latest experiment – it was made with beets – aah yes, an experimental, real-food baker after my own heart!). We had a great afternoon hanging out with them and before we knew it, the sun had gone down. We were left with the rest of the cake and the delicious ginger sauce topping. We got to visit again a couple days later when I returned the containers.
The winds haven’t hit the highs predicted so far, but there are still a number of days to go in this event, so we shall see. A chilly, blustery day is a good day to stay in and do some writing. Luckily we had a bit of sun midday that allowed for a quick swim and personal care – which was a relief as we were both getting a little ripe. It was nice to warm up with a bowl of vegetable turkey soup afterwards, though.
We are not sure exactly how long we will be here, but when there’s a chance we will make a break for our next jump south. It won’t be long before we are in La Paz and not long after that making another crossing back to mainland—to warmer weather and warmer (however less clear) waters.
So there it is, – a whole year in Mexico! It feels like we accomplished something, although I’m still absorbing what that is, exactly. I think we are finally in a place to be able to take a breath and look up, now that we are a bit more accustomed to this life and all it entails. I know I’ve repeated it more than once, but it’s very true that “wherever you go, there you are” or, more specific to the cruising life “you take your problems with you”. We still have to tend to the work that any relationship requires, and this past year has certainly tested us in ways we couldn’t imagine, as well as made it more difficult for us to focus on many of the problems we brought with us. We finally feel like we have the space, and perhaps the urgent need, to focus on some important personal things that got pushed aside while we were learning how to be cruisers. If you’ve been following along, you know this life is not all cocktails and sunsets (what life is?) but of course I leave out many of the ugliest parts, because, what fun would that be for you? (you’ll have to watch reality TV if you want that sort of fix!).
It’s nearly impossible to tell what the next year is going to bring as we are facing a number of pretty huge decisions. These days when people press us for our ‘plans’, I fumble around a bit and usually end up saying “The only thing we know that is going to happen for certain is that we are running out of money”. We are exploring a number of ideas and opportunities in that realm (and are very open to suggestions and ideas!). Neither of us knows where we will end up or exactly how we will get there, but with effort, cooperation and love, we hope to keep heading there together.