Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010 - La Paz

January 26, 2010 –4:30 am on the way across the Sea to Muertos

It was flat calm in the marina basin, no swell at all, so we were talking on the phone and completely unprepared when we exited the jetty into rolling water. And so it has continued for 15 hours now. It is nothing that the boat can’t handle, no blue water on the windshield or anything like that. But we have been bouncing up and down all the way across. The beautiful shrimp that I bought from a fisherman just before leaving Mazatlan will have to wait until we are at anchor. Peeling and cooking them was beyond me. We had egg salad sandwiches for dinner, and felt lucky that we had the hard boiled eggs on hand. We have had such lovely weather, that even a little roll and I am pouting. As usual, Earl has done most of the watching while I slept with Daisy curled up by my side. He finally admitted he was tired at three am, having mostly been up since four-thirty am , so Daisy and I are on watch. The moon, which was almost full, has gone down, and, with some of the stars hidden, it is quite dark outside. The sun will be welcome when it rises in a couple of hours.

January 26, 2010 – 7 pm, at anchor at Los Muertos

The sea finally laid down around 10 am and then got better and better. We really appreciate the absence of swell having had some for a day. The rest of the day has been relaxed. Earl worked on fishing and I read and watched, more or less. I did peel and cook some shrimp for a salad at lunch. They are huge. I cooked twelve and we ate only at 8. They really are big, but, to be honest (or just provincial) they don’t compare favorably with our Alaskan spots. After 30 hours, we are at anchor with a few sailboats and it is lovely and calm. We had dinner on the back deck and I suspect we will be in bed by eight.

January 27, 2010, 10 am – Los Muertos

It is a beautiful day. Most of the boats pulled their anchors and left early. There are a few small boats fishing right off the beach with considerable success. Earl has been watching with thinly disguised envy. His major reason for not fishing was that he did not have any bait, but I think that can be remedied. Finally he could stand it no longer, lowered the dingy, and took a few pesos to buy some bait and he took off, happy as a a pig in ****. We plan on exploring the bay, including a resort and a small restaurant. If the fishing is good, I think we may stay a couple of days. Why ever not? It is really lovely. Update: It took no more than 10 minutes for Earl to hook a 15 pound dorado. One very happy camper! (Earl, not the fish). Update: 45 minutes since leaving, he now has two fish and is off to see if another boat can use one.

January 29, 2010, 5 am – Leaving Los Muertos

We had two lovely days here. Earl ended up catching 3 nice dorado within about 90 minutes, while I had a lovely swim around the boat. Having bait apparently makes a big difference. The bait that Earl bought from the pangero was fish called ballyhoo. They are about a foot long, nine inches of slender silver body and a 3 inch bill. Anyway, I am now blessed with a nice supply of them in a baking pan in the freezer. Earl laid them out with loving care, separated by saran wrap so that he can take one or more out at a time.

Earl gave two fish away to young couples on sailboats. He invited them to come for drinks and we had a lovely time making their acquaintance. One young couple from San Francisco is between college and graduate school, working during the summer to allow them to sail frugally during the rest of the year. The other couple is from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. They are headed south and west and will sail the Pacific as long as their finances allow, hopefully two years. It was wonderful to see young people cruising. For obvious reasons, most of the cruisers are retired. While we have a wonderful time, I think it would have been quite wonderful to do this in my twenties. Both couples have blogs: and

We had a nice time exploring Muertos. The beach has beautiful fine white sand. One day we landed the dingy on the north end of the bay and had lunch at a restaurant that everyone calls the Giggling Marlin. That is no longer its name. It has changed names and owners several times, but apparently the staff stays. I had been told that their chili rellenos were the best ever, and I have to agree. Fantastic. The setting was superb, a large open air palapala overlooking picture perfect water. One the way back to our dingy, some young Mexicans who had been fishing and drinking considerable amounts of beer, invited Earl to taste their tuna, which Earl said was wonderful. Yesterday, we went to the south end of the bay to visit a resort called Gran Sueno. It was lovely. It is a collection of very nice houses, all different, and beautifully landscaped. Everywhere you looked there seems to be another small pool. They have a golf course and a staff of 35 for a total of 14 rooms. Very nice indeed. One of the best things is the dining room, called Train Central. The owner loves electric trains and apparently has a vast collection, some of which is set up here. There are multiple tracks circling the balcony and I have never seen so many different trains. It was fun.

I am sure that we will return to Muertos as a destination rather than just a stop over. For now we are on our way ‘home’ to La Paz. It is about an 8 hour run, so we decided to leave whenever we woke. That was at a quarter of five, and we are now enjoying glassy seas and a full moon. There are porpoises around and I can hear them whistle to one another, but they are busy have breakfast and don’t seem inclined to play.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January 24, 2010 - Mazatlan

We are at the Marina Mazatlan and are only power boat on our dock. This is definitely sailboat country. The marina, which is relatively new, is probably only 60% full with many of the docks completely empty. I am not sure if they are not finished or if there is not the business. The marina is surrounded by large condo buildings which don’t give the impression of being fully occupied and the shop space on the ground level is only about half used.

We have enjoyed our stay. Mazatlan is pretty built up, lots of large hotel and apartment buildings, but the city is clean and relatively quiet. It is full of American and Canadian retirees, 6,000 of them according to one publication. I can see why. I think one could live very well on $30,000 a year. Looking at the real estate ads, it does not seem as if housing would be expensive. Certainly groceries are pretty cheap down here and what we have heard about medical care is it is very good and very reasonable. (There was an advertisement offering elective surgery, including transportation from the states and hotel costs, at 40% of US norms.) There is great bus service and old part of the city is charming.

Earl and I spent this morning touring the downtown and the municipal Mercado (market) which was enormous. We did not think we could use the pigs heads, so we passed them up, along with everything else since I had been to a wonderful ‘supermercado’ yesterday. We stopped and had a wonderful brunch at an outdoor cafĂ© and enjoyed the scenery. Although the boaters on our dock were complaining about the cold and wearing sweaters this morning, it feels warm to us, rather than sweltering, and we love it. Right now at 5 pm it is 78.

Tomorrow we off to cross over to the Baja. It is 185 miles, so if we leave tomorrow morning, we should be anchored at Los Muertos by late afternoon the day after. We will see what the weather gods provide. It has been a little blustery.

Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22, Mazatlan

We left San Blas early in the morning, having agreed that it is definitely a place we will revisit next year. It was a delightful surprise. Our run northwest to Isla Isabela was mellow. We saw a good many shrimpers along the way. This part of the coast has a smooth bottom apparently ideal for dragging gear. The rigging on the shrimp boats is invariably festooned with pelicans. From a distance, they look like pennants.

Isla Isabela is only about 40 miles from San Blas so we were there by early afternoon. There are two anchorages, one in a bay on the south side of Isla Isabela and the other on the east side, south of a couple of odd rocks called the Monas (dress manikins). There were two sailboats on the south side of the Island, so we anchored below the Monas and had the whole east side of the island to ourselves. We took a dingy ride around the Monas. The water was incredibly clear and we could see schools of fish. Then we went on to the island. It is a national park and bird rookery. The frigate birds breed there, and the trees are loaded with their nests. The males have bright red chests which they show off, and the babies are white balls of fuzz. Blue footed boobies also nest on the island, but Earl thinks they are stupid birds and therefore declined to go look for any of their nests.

Afterwards we went swimming in the 80 degree water. Earl had made a ladder for the dingy from a model I saw on the internet and we decided to try it out. It is essentially a rope ladder that hangs over the pontoon. Well, after changing the rigging a couple of times, we made it work. It is not pretty to see, but we can actually crawl our way back into the dingy. Earl is thinking about additional model improvements.

There were whales around the island the whole time we were there. I think there were four or five of them in the immediate area and they played around not 150 yards off the boat most of the time we were there. Unfortunately, we did not get any good photos. We are so spoiled that just a whale back or tail is no longer worth photographing, and it is almost impossible to get photos of them breaching. Maybe I can make it a mission for Earl.

The next morning we woke to see that we had acquired a neighbor overnight, a sport fisher who had come in after we called it a day. By 9 am, we had been joined by five sailboats who had come from Mazatlan overnight and tried to anchor as close to us as possible. Apparently we are unusual in that we don’t boat with buddies. We are also going north at a time when most boats are going south. Wrong way Corrigan.

We had a pleasant day, I kayaked, Earl replaced the solenoid in the winch and we swam. Then as it was getting dark, we pulled our anchor, said goodbye to a beautiful place and took off for Mazatlan some 80 miles north. We had, as tends to be the case, a lovely night of traveling. It is incredibly peaceful running at night in these waters. The downside is that we arrive tired. Today was no exception, and we spent most of the afternoon napping and will head for bed early.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19, 2010 - San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico

San Blas is about 20 miles north of Chacala and it was a quick trip. The guide book made it sound like a questionable destination. It stressed that the entrance was iffy and shoal and that we should get a guide to take us in and that we would be eaten by bugs. However, it had a cute photo of native ladies selling stuff, so we decided to give it a try and are very glad that we did. We had no trouble coming in, just stayed between the buoys. A helpful sailboater came on the radio and gave us a couple of tips about where to anchor and cautioned us to avoid a sandbar in midstream. He also invited us to a potluck that evening on the marina dock. We anchored out with about 6 or 7 sailboats, across from the little marina. While in the evening we are happy to have screens and bug dope, the bugs have not in any way ruined our visit.

This is a wonderful place. San Blas is a large estuary with a pretty good tidal flow. It is an old town, started in the 1500’s. At one time in the 1700’s it had 30,000+ habitants and was a major port for trade with the Philippines. It is now about ¼ that size. There is fishing and agriculture, and a good deal of Mexican tourism in the summer since the beach is known as one of the best surfing beaches on the coast. There is not a great deal of pleasure boating but we are not sure why. Anchoring in the estuary is easy, with a secure dingy dock at the marina. The marina is one of several Singular (government) marinas that we have seen. The buildings seem to be the same at every Singular marina that we have visited, and quite impressive, including beautiful clean showers and a swimming pool. The dock is small, and probably can hold only 15 boats of our size or smaller.

We have been pretty busy and could easily spend several more days here, but I suspect we will be off tomorrow. Earl is a traveling man. The first night we went to the pot luck which was a perfect way to get some tips on what to do here. One thing we will not get to do if we leave tomorrow is to take a bus ride to Tepic, about 40 miles away. Tepic is the capital of Nayarit and is apparently a lovely old town with lots of Huichol Indian handcrafts on sale. I wanted to get some of their bead work, but I think it will have to wait for another visit. We took a trip up to the old church and fort which are up on a hill overlooking the estuary. The view was spectacular, and the old buildings are being well maintained. The old church was apparently made famous by Longfellow who wrote a poem called the Bells of San Blas (which I shall have to look up and read.) The church was abandoned in the 1800’s and the bells were relocated down to the new church in the town plaza.

We had a good time exploring the town which is very nice. We saw an intriguing old hacienda which has been turned into a hotel and looked to be a wonderful place to stay. We also did a little shopping. Finding a 9 volt battery was quite a challenge, but I finally got one at a pharmacy. (It was the only one they had). We bought eggs, which are sold by the kilo, rather than by number. The eggs I bought ran about 18 to the kilo. I chatted with a nice young man selling stuff in the plaza. He had heard of Alaska -because of Sarah Palin.

Today we took a highly recommended trip up the estuary, through the mangroves, up to a fresh water spring and a crocodile preserve. It was wonderful. Earl took photos till his camera battery gave up the ghost. The area is famous for birding and I can see why. We had been told to go early in the day before too many boats ran up the stream, so we left our boat before sunrise and arrived at the tour landing before any of boat captains. We were the first up and it was very special. There were tons of birds on the way up, many of them with their wings spread to warm themselves in the early morning sun. We gradually left the mangroves behind and went through high grasses and interesting trees, on which grew orchids. There were clumps of lilies blooming along the banks and the air was slightly perfumed. The water was brown, but very clear. We saw iguanas, turtles, crocodiles and loved it. This excursion only made it well worth stopping.

We invited a young couple from the sail boat next to us to come over for a drink last night. They have just started their cruising this fall on their boat Exit Strategy. They would like to make it to SE Asia. I say young couple because they are probably in their 40s. But they got an early start in life. Jean has two grandkids and a third on the way. One of the nicest things about cruising is the interesting and lovely people that we meet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 16, on the way north from Chacala

Yesterday we checked out of the La Cruz marina. It cost us about $30 per day for moorage, $2 total for water – which we only used to wash the boat – and $60 total for electric power. We had run the air conditioner a lot, so the electric charge makes sense, but I was surprised at how high it was. If one wanted to economize, it would be easy enough to moor outside the yacht basin. There is a good dingy dock with some security available.

The day dawned cooler and crisp after the prior day’s rain. We left La Cruz under clear skies, but with a goodly lump. I had hoped that we would only go an hour or so to the Marietas, a couple of little islands on the north edge of Banderas Bay. I had visions of anchoring there, snorkeling and whale watching. The swell was too big, so we continued north to a little community called Chacala, about 35 miles north from La Cruz. Along the way, we did see whales, one of which was fishing 20 yards in front of the boat, and Earl did a little fishing a caught a dorado.

The charts down here are awful. The two major problems are that they are not true as far as GPS is concerned and that they have very little detail. In addition, we were spoiled in the Sea of Cortez by having an excellent cruising guide. Down here we only have Pat Raine’s book on Mexico, which is better than nothing, but we definitely feel a lack of data. We tried to buy a more detailed chart for this area at Zaragoza’s Marine, but they did not have anything really satisfactory. Maybe it does not exist. Having just said bad things about Pat Raine’s book, I have to admit that we would have been hurting without the GPS points that she had for Chacala. We input them in the plotter and that was what we steered to.

Chacala is a little village with some high end homes and a lovely beach. It is apparently mobbed Easter week and during the summer with surfers. It was pretty quiet yesterday, although we did have some steel drum music accompaniment for dinner. I hoped we would spend the day, but it is not to be. Last night the wind shifted and Earl was bothered by the smell of burning trash – I slept through it. So we are off. I think our destination is San Blas where the jejenes (local noseemums) are reputed to be fierce. In the meantime, it is good going. Earl caught a bonito which was not very large, but gave him a good fight. More exciting, from my perspective, was watching a whale, or maybe whales, breaching. It or they came completely out of the water repeatedly. It is unbelievable to see something that size fly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

January 15, 2010 - Marina Riviera Nayarit, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Our first day at the marina was short. It took Earl about an hour to do the paperwork with the marina and the port captain. Shortly after he returned we had soup for dinner, showered, and went to bed. In somewhat better shape the next day, we looked around. The marina is only a couple of years old, and not at all full. They have done a beautiful job of landscaping and the docks are very nice. On the downside, the water is not potable, (we’ve been spoiled at Costabaja in La Paz) and there is quite a surge in the basin. The town is quite charming. Very undeveloped, certainly in comparison to Puerta Vallarta 20 miles away. We walked up the street a couple of blocks and caught a bus into Puerta Vallarta to visit Zaragoza Marine Store in search of a replacement hose valve for the ice maker. There was a bus pulling away as we arrived, but another pulled in within a minute. It cost us 32 pesos (about $2.50) and was quite jolly. A pretty woman and child boarded at the next stop and she and the driver chatted for the rest of the trip. Later a man got on with a guitar and serenaded us. I wanted to pay him to stop. The stops seem to be haphazard. At one point there was an intersection that was flooded. A couple got on just before the intersection and off immediately after- they apparently did not want to wade and that seemed reasonable to the driver. No charge. We had told the driver where we were going when we boarded. Fortunately Earl spotted the store as we were going by because the driver was busy chatting. He apologized for missing the stop and let us off.

Earl loved the marine store. Apparently he had never seen such a selection of marine hardware. Even better, there was an English speaking salesman. He and Earl conferred at great length and eventually decided to order the part since nothing on hand would work. Meanwhile I was wandering around. When I caught up with Earl he was in the fishing gear section of the store. Danger - of the kid in candy store variety. He had a few packages of hooks, which looked fairly innocent, but he was conferring with another English speaking salesman and a non English speaking older gentleman in front of a display of large lures, none of which cost less than $40. I limited him to one. He then wandered off with the English speaking salesman. I had enough Spanish to comment to the older gentleman that there were some very expensive toys in the store. While looking at the snorkel gear, we were told that the older gentleman was the owner. We rushed back to tell him that Earl had never seen such an impressive marine store including Fisheries Supply in Seattle. I told him that Earl had been a commercial fisherman in Alaska so he knew a good deal about marine supply stores. Mr. Zaragoza, the owner, was absolutely delighted. He called over a young man who was introduced as his son and we chatted. The young man spoke a little English but was hesitant. Nevertheless, we visited. Mr. Zaragoza wants very much to go to Alaska and fish salmon. He sent his son off to find his brother, who turned out to be the salesman Earl had been working with to find the valve. Again, more hand shaking, and much more talking about fishing for salmon in Alaska. After exchanging cards, and lots more hand shaking, we paid and left the store feeling very mellow.

The bus ride back was delightful. It was an old bus, which I suspect belongs to the bus driver. Every time he asked something extra of it, like changing gears, he would pat the engine. There was loud happy music playing and doodads hanging from the window and everyone seemed pretty cheerful. Earl and I agreed that it would be hard to be unhappy in this environment.

Another day, I took the bus into Puerto Vallarta with a fellow cruiser who had spent some time in the area. Our mission was to look at a pottery factory. It was fun and we had a lovely lunch in a beautiful restaurant on the shore of a little stream that runs through the town. I found out the Puerto Vallarta and the southern part of Banderas Bay is on a different time zone than La Cruz. Since the towns seem to blend into one another, it is pretty confusing, at least that is my excuse for coming home late. We did not come back empty handed. (Yes, I know, the boat does have a limit on its capacity)

One of the landmarks here is a place called Philos. Philo is aging musician from the US with a lovely young Mexican wife. He has a bar-restaurant which caters to cruisers. There is a book exchange shelf and a large TV and you are welcome to come and stay as long as you wish. In the evening, Philo and friends play music and the placed is jammed. The music seemed to be of the country and western genre and the little dance floor was crowded. Average age was probably 65. We had fun eating pizza and watching our contemporaries dancing.

We explored the little town. The streets are cobble and sidewalks, if they exist, are about 18 inches wide. Every other door seems to be a little shop, selling a few odds and ends and veggies. Every street has a least three resident dogs, usually very small and very friendly. The children in the elementary school wear red bottoms, and red and white tops. They are adorable. The laundry did a large bag of laundry for us for the big sum of 78 pesos, $6, and managed to get all the spots out of our shirts. We found our way to a lovely gallery-restaurant featuring work by the local Huichol Indians. We fell in love with the artwork. It is made of yarn (or beads) pressed into wax. The artists for the large yarn paintings are usually shamans and the work reflects the visions they have while under the influence of peyote. (Looking at a wall of them, I have a pretty good feel for what peyote would do to me). They are wild and I love them. We now have two which we will have to figure out how to get home and where to hang.

Every morning Daisy gets a walk which she loves since there are lots of other dogs to talk to. It is very hot here, even though it is winter, so the cruiser folk all walk or jog early in the day. We have run into a number of people here that we have met elsewhere. It is really a floating, migrant community and everyone knows other people by the names of their boats and dogs.

The world is very small. Cricket linked me up to my cousin Lalie Clayman on facebook. The next day, Lalie, having read my note about being in the Puerto Vallarta area, sent me a note telling me that her husband John, who is from Seaton Yachts in Rhode Island, was doing a survey on a Nordhavn 55 in La Cruz. We saw the boat being lifted out of the water and ran over, about two blocks, and introduced ourselves. John and the owners came over and visited with us and I finally got to meet Lalie’s husband. It was wonderful to be able to renew family ties so far from home.

We ran into and visited with a family from California who are on a 40 foot sailboat (a valiant) with two delightful children aged 7 and 9. The parents are both attorneys who quit their jobs. Obviously this will be a time that the kids will never forget. They made me think of the Eltons and the Daltons who will find their blog - interesting.

We woke this am to a big rainstorm. It had rained over night and has continued on and off all day. We needed to take the bus into Puerto Vallarta to pick up the valve and I think we swam from the bus stop to the store. Earl saw a water spout out on the bay. When it storms here, it really storms. Earl got right to the job when we got back to the boat. When he took apart the original valve and hose, he found the hose had been cut on the bias – installation problem! Anyway, after some challenges related to working in small spaces, the job is done and we think – knock on wood- that we have solved the problem.

I took Daisy for a celebratory walk which she loved, except she fell in the water getting back on the boat. As I mentioned, there is quite a surge here and the lines move up and down. She hit one and landed in the drink. Poor pup! To add insult to injury, I decided I might as well wash her. She is beautiful and clean – and resting on the sofa pillow.

Tomorrow we will leave and start to explore the waters here. So far, we have spent our time exploring on shore which has been fun, but we are ready for cruising, fishing and snorkeling.