Wednesday, December 28, 2011

....and the livin' is easy?

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico: Christmas couldn't have come at a better time. By that I mean we needed a day of cheer and escape from a week of several lingering and maddening issues. Part of the reason for the slow blogging is that both of our computers died within 24 hours of each other. Mine is completely fried, Terry's needed some fixin and some pesos. We found Eduardo at CompuElectronica here in La Cruz to be competent and easy to work with. Now we are in the process of getting a new computer for me, and getting the stuff off my old one onto another drive, etc. Our friend Lawnboy (Brian Wade on S/V Wade's Aweigh) said his father can bring a new computer down when he comes to be with Lawnboy on 1/3.

A dinghy is a crucial component of cruising life. It is our car. I'm one of those people who never gives a thought to the dependability and functionality of my car. I just turn the key on and go. So imagine my annoyance when we discovered that our brand new dinghy has a transom that is too shallow to keep our dinghy motor properly out of the water. We now have a dinghy motor full of water that has come in through the exhaust. We are without a 'car'. Parts may or may not be available, getting them here may or may not be very feasible, a new motor will be very expensive. We're still considering our options--stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

La Paz To Banderas Bay

11/29/11 in Los Muertos: We left La Paz at about 7:30 am morning, clear skies, winds about 12 knots. We had an uneventful trip making the 45 miles from La Paz to Los Muertos, the place where Terry tangled with the mystery sea creature. We had sundowners on Endeavor and met Sherry, Bob, Sydney (another one!) and Annie aboard s/v Pearl, who joined us on Endeavor. They are from Olympia, have lived aboard there for years, which is how the Phillips family met them. What a nice family. They had hoped to cruise for a year or two, but the cruising kitty isn’t quite big enough, so they will be in Mexico for only six or seven months and then bash back north so Bob can go back to work at United Airlines. Sherry and Gina talked a lot about homeschooling, Sherry has been doing it for years, so Gina is always glad to talk to other homeschooling moms. I think doing something like this with your kids is fantastic for their education.
It’s so nice to be back on the hook. The only reason I like marinas is for the chance to get online.We’ll be leaving around noon or so tomorrow to begin the passage across the Sea of Cortez to Isla Isabel, about 250 miles.
The water temp here in Muertos is 74 degrees, considerably cooler than it has been over the last several weeks, when it was in the 80’s. The nights are also cooler, but we still sleep with all the ports open even in the ‘winter’ here.

11/30/11 – 12/1/11 Crossing the Sea of Cortez: We left  Los Muertos at about 11:00 this morning ahead of Endeavor bound across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexican mainland. They were going to give us a head start since they can go faster than we can. We aren’t sure yet exactly where we’ll land. Possibilities are Isla Isabel, Mazatlan or Matanchen – all around 250 miles away, so it will be two nights offshore. It will depend on the sea state and what kind of time we can make. We left under calm winds and sun, put the sails up and sailed for a couple of hours and then the wind died. I had first watch at 8pm, which was pleasant and uneventful. The moon was a crescent turned up like a cup. It was high in the sky, then in what seemed like only a few minutes, it turned bright red and sank into the Pacific.

The next day was very warm and the sea was glassy and no wind again. We saw sea turtles and lots of flying fish. The sky and sea blended into one blue canvas above and all around us. Again I had first watch and it was so surreal. There was kind of a haze that smudged the line between the sky and the mirror-like water, the stars were brilliant. It was sort of like drifting in space—I can’t really describe it. I kept thinking about that song I used to sing and play guitar to--Winken Blinken and Nod…’they sailed on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew’. As we motored along in the dark, there were some kind of critters in the water about the size of an small dinner plate that kept firing off an iridescent glow as we went by – hundreds of them. It was the most mesmerizing watch I’ve ever done. It was like a dream really. I don’t know what they were, but what a show with the glassy sea, the stars, the smudged horizon and the big fireworks going off in the water all around us.
It was decided to bypass Isla Isabel this time around and head for Ensenada de Matanchen because we had made very good time on the crossing and would have had to go into Isla Isabel before dawn—not a fun thing to do.

12/2/11 Matanchen: We saw humpback whales this morning just before we reached Matanchen. It’s a roadstead anchorage and had only a few boats in it when we got anchored and settled at about 9am. Just as we were coming in we heard a man on the VHF from the vessel Jama who was warning all of us about some serious theft problems in the San Blas and Matanchen anchorages. He advised us not to leave our boats unattended because very recently a boat had been boarded while the owners were ashore and the thieves had broken through their companionway and cleaned them out. Apparently the thieves had someone onshore who was signaling when the owners were on the way back to the boat, allowing them to get away. None of their stuff was recovered Terry recognized the name of the guy on the VHHF giving the warning and said he had read in Latitude 38 that this guy was kind of a troublemaker. We had a little meeting with Endeavor and decided that whether the guy was a troublemaker or not, we would be wise to follow his advice.We all (six of us) jumped into our dinghy and went ashore after arranging with Twyla and Ken on SV Sail Time to keep an eye on our boats and call us on our portable VHF if anything suspicious was going on.

The long beach is lined with many palapas and ramshackle buildings, dusty and hot, with the ever-present stray dogs. In stark contrast to the aridity of Baja, the vegetation here is lush--like a jungle.  Apparently the town is a short walk down the dirt road running along the beach. From our vantage point on the boat it looks quite deserted, with hundreds of plastic chairs at empty tables in all the palapas—a bit unnerving. I guess the economy is suffering quite a bit.On the beach we met Baro who directed us to his palapa restaurant where we had all kinds of tasty dishes. Finally, we are in a palapa eating and visiting with the locals. Baro was so kind to us. He practiced his English, and we practiced our Spanish, and we learned all about his life. His house was behind the palapa, with a neat little yard in front. He’s lived here all his life, and he truly feels he lives in paradise. He used to be a professional surfer and has travelled all over competing. He has four grown children, a couple of whom live in Denmark, one in New Mexico and one someplace else I can’t remember (LA?). He cut some lemon grass out of his yard and gave it to us so we could make tea. All the while we’re visiting with him, an older woman is in the little cocina cooking away while the Mexican soap operas blared on the TV above her head. After eating lunch at the beach we went over to Endeavor and had the marinated FRESH dorado they had caught this morning. OH WOW! I guess the menu name for this fish is Mahi Mahi, which I’ve had before, but what a difference FRESH makes. Even Terry, my die-hard beef man is starting to order seafood and ceviche in restaurants!

12/3/11 Matanchen: We watched their boat while the Phillips’ took the panga tour up into the mangroves to see the birds and crocs. Then we spent all afternoon at another palapa eating and drinking and battling jejenes and mosquitoes.

12/4/11 Matanchen: This time Endeavor watched our boat while we took The La Tovara Jungle Tour. Eduardo was our excellent guide pointing out the crocs, iguanas, storks, herons, falcons, lilies and turtles. Then another afternoon at another palapa eating and drinking, the kids swimming. Tomorrow we leave – next stop Chacala.

12/5/11 Matanchen: We have been eaten alive by the jejenes and mosquitoes, and are out of OFF. We don’t have mosquitoes or bitey things in Anacortes and I had forgotten what it’s like to itch 24/7. To continue my little whine, we also had a very rolly night and didn’t get much sleep. Anyway, we finally said uncle and pulled up anchor to head the 54 miles to Punta Mita. We decided that Chacala was going to be just as rolly as Matanchen, so we changed our float plan and headed to Punta Mita. We do that a lot—make a plan of some sort and then change it on the fly. Endeavor fished all the way and we always knew when they had a fish on because they’d start going around in circles to chase the line. Punta Mita is small, mostly condos and a few nice palapas on the beach. The next morning we went ashore for a tasty breakfast after spending the night at anchor in Punta Mita, then headed out early the next day for Banderas Bay. It was only about a 2 hour motor over there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life In La Paz

la paz boat sculpture
11/11/11 – 11/28/11 La Paz: The name La Paz means “Peace”, and for a city of 215,000 people, it manages to convey an atmosphere of the quiet and simplicity of a much smaller place. The malecon, that long beautiful walk along the waterfront with its many statues and works of art was the picturesque setting for all the early morning walks that Gina, Sydney and I took. We joined locals at a simple little makeshift  malecon gym with slant boards and parallel bars, and were greeted warmly by another group of locals practicing their Tai Chi. Our days quickly fell into a routine of boat chores in the mornings and relaxation in the afternoons when the temperature climbed and the motivation plummeted.

La Paz has a remarkable cruisers network where information about services, equipment, and all things related to boating are readily available. The morning VHF net provides weather, news about coming events and activities, and a forum for questions and answers. Our hats are off to those who provide this great resource.

Terry and I were able to get a replacement for the dinghy prop the first full day we were there. It was  quite a process to communicate to the ladies in the Yamaha shop what were looking for, but after many pesos and much laughter we emerged with our prop.

We also managed to disengage ourselves from all the red tape that is required to get Mexican cell phone service, with our sanity mostly intact. I never thought I’d miss AT&T.

We walked and walked and walked, exploring, looking for markets and restaurants and interesting things to see. We struggled to find the best places for provisions, hoping to find farmer’s markets, but were mostly disappointed. Then we were just as amazed to find a store something like a Fred Meyer, except that they had people singing over the public address system (blue light specials maybe!?) and a meat department in which none of the labels made sense to us.

Mostly what we did in La Paz was learn all about what it means to be cruisers in Mexico. Here are just a few of things covered in the curriculum in lovely La Paz:
*  We learned that in Mexico you must must must carry small bills, lots of them, or ‘cambio’ becomes a problem.
* We learned that to take a dinghy into town in early evening when dark clouds are rolling in and winds are piping up means a long dark, rainy and rough dinghy ride home later on, and that it’s sometimes best to just take a cab.
*We learned that occasionally we are  kinda stupid (see above).
* We learned you no sooner get one problem solved (dinghy prop), then others pop up—a fried battery charger and heads needing new joker valves.
* We learned about what I call the Gringo Parcel Express, the underground railroad of sorts in which cruisers and friends and family traveling to and from Mexico are obliged to transport all manner of goods, equipment  and ‘stuff’ to and from the States for cruisers.
* We learned that we are fortunate to have a Gringo friend willing  to  be our packhorse in the Gringo Parcel Express and bring us a new battery charger. Thanks Lawnboy!
*  We learned to love the Arrachera at Rancho Viejo, and the hamburgers, cheap drinks and wacky atmosphere at The Shack.
* We learned that miracles do happen when Gina located an actual ham for part of our Thanksgiving menu.
* We learned once again how blessed we are to have these particular friends to share another Thanksgiving, and that cooking Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in Mexico is one hot and sweaty affair.
* We learned that we need to remember next time to take a picture of the feast on our Thanksgiving table (duh)
* We learned that La Paz is indeed a city of Peace and that its people are warm and kind.