Beating a Path off the Beaten Path

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I haven’t posted in awhile but in case you were worried, Minion remains not quite right.

 

There is a scene in the movie Animal House where our heroes enter a bar, not knowing their are no white people in the bar.  As they come through the door, the music stops and all heads swivel to look at them.  In La Cruz there is a bar on the second floor of building about a block from where the much loved, much missed Huanacaxtle Bar and Cafe currently sits empty.  I would frequently walk by this bar and want to go in, but replay the scene from Animal House in my mind replacing the dancers and band in Animal House with dour Hombres nursing Tequila at the bar.  Granted I have no logical reason for this vision since I’m not sure I’ve even seen one dour hombre in La Cruz, let alone enough to fill the bar.

I recently found myself wandering the streets for La Cruz with a group of people that I was not, by  a pretty good margin, the largest person in.  It suddenly struck me as a good time to try out this bar – at least if my vision came true we could back out gracefully while presenting enough humans mass to hopefully deter more action than a glare from my envisioned moustachioed hombres.  So up the stairs we all went, and traipsed in mass through the door to… and empty bar and a bartender happy to see a group of customers.  A couple ballenas (1 liter  bottles of beer) were purchased, the men migrated to the free pool table and the women to the jukebox which prompter started cranking out loud dance music.  Our only company was a local youth who joined in our inaugural pool game.  Despite his having a rather interesting take on some of our established pool rules and a language barrier trying to understand his rules, we still won and took over the table.  Our group had a great time, playing pool, teaching the bartender how to make Kamikazes and dancing to the American music we could find on the jukebox.  And not one dour hombre in sight.  

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One of my fellow cruisers used the phrase “cruise by numbers” recently.  It is easy to do.  We all have the same guide books, except for the odd cruiser who doesn’t have Sean and Heather’s Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico books.  So we all know about the same anchorages, the same establishements, the same attractions.  It is easy to follow the flow, the trip down the Baja, La Paz, across to the mainland then down to Banderas Bay and to parts south.  Admittidely it then gets a bet more varied with boats sailing for the South Pacific, continuining south to Panama or swinging back up for time in Mexico.  But for the first few months of the season there is a pretty established route for cruisers.  Sometimes I wonder how the businesses not in the guide books survive.  Maybe the inclusion of Philo’s here in La Cruz explains how they stay in business despite lousy food, high prices and bad service.  

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Right next to Philo’s, cheap, good service, very tasty, and open one day a week.

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Enjoying Birria with the crews of Lokia and Pallaran

Yet the best experiences seem to be trying someplace new or walking around town exploring on our own.  Or taking a chance on something, such as the concert Jenn and I bought tickets to at the airport when she flew in for a visit over the holidays.  We figured it was a low risk, 200 pesos (about 15 dollars) for a ticket.  We arrived at the theater to find it clean, modern with (gasp) reasonably priced concessions.  It wouldn’t be Mexico with out the show starting 45 minutes after the time printed on the ticket, but that extra time allowed us to move from our seats three quarters of the way to the back of the theater to 8 rows back from the stage.  And we were treated to an extravaganza.  While the group consisted of a violinist and keyboard player, the supporting cast included dancers in vary degrees of elaborate costumes, a contortionist, and at the end a full mariachis band joining in on stage.  All in all an amazing show for a bargain price, the only downside being some minor and somewhat puzzling sound issues.  How a country that can blast techno dance music outside a clothing store at volumes that make night clubs jealous would have issues with a full sound system at their disposal just makes no sense.  And honestly, the issues were minor and actually more amusing for the above reason than distracting.  

 

(Sorry – cell phone pics I didn’t think to take my camera)

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Nothing goes with music like a contortionist. Sadly the keytar in the background was only used in the opening number.

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The duo of Arcano.

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A stage full of entertainment.

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Somehow there always ends up being Mexican folk dancing.

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And of course, the whole show in stiletto heels.

So now I’m on the off the beaten path bandwagon.  Not that ever been a full on cruiser by numbers, and though out my world travels I’ve tried to seek out a different experience when possible.  But these recent events have reminded me to try to push the boundaries.  My next step?  Eating in one of the local restaurants that look more like you are walking into someones house then into a restaurant.  Not that there aren’t challenges, like actually knowing about off the beaten path places.  Or even when you do find one, such as the Michelada artist here in La Cruz that moved from a cart outside the store to his own storefront.  I’ve purchased many a Michelada from him as his business is handily located right next to the bus stop.  But it wasn’t till a couple days ago that I realized you could buy a Michelada with a stack of cucumbers and shrimp placed gracefully on the lid around the straw.  Yes, my good friends will point out I don’t eat shrimp, but my point is even though I was off the beaten path by buying Micheladas at this spot, I never dreamed there was more possibilities.  One more reminder to learn more Spanish.  It makes me wonder what else exists that I don’t know about (and yes, I’m sure there is plenty smart ass).  

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If you wander in to new places, you meet interesting people. like Tom Cruise’s Mexican twin brother.

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Or run into a boobie on the beach.

And sometimes the path is beaten for a reason – at my suggestion a group of us went to Marina Vallarta with our boats for a couple nights to locate us closer to downtown for New Years eve.  The malecon is supposed to be packed with revelers and fireworks are detonated around the bay.  However… in hindsight I realized I haven’t talked to anyone that has been into Marina Vallarta.  It is in the guide book so I just kinda assumed it was a good place to go.  And while it worked out there were some adventures, such as being radioed on my way in by Paul on Unleashed who informed me there was a boat in the slip I had been assigned by the marina via email.  At least the new slip they gave me had cleats on the dock, unlike the first slip Palleran tried to tie up at.  And at least the finger pier of the slip I was in didn’t break, like the second slip Palleran went too.  And luckily no one fell off the broken dock, since I was spouting off about how there were no crocodiles in the marina until I spotted a crocodile in the marina.  And if we had fallen in and been lucky enough to get out unscathed by the crocodile (unlikely in my mind) the water on the dock would have to suffice for cleaning up since the showers were being remodeled and were as such, unavailable.  But here is the secret to off the beaten path, espeically when it goes wrong.  A good attitude.  We had a great time, laughed at the issues and didn’t let them, or the torrential rain the accompanied the various visitors from Seattle ruin our fun.  In fact, we probably had more fun.  So thanks to our visitors Jason, Julia and Jenn, and the crews of Unleashed, Pallaren and Lokia to making the best of my poorly researched suggestion to head to Marina Vallarta, and for keeping a positive attitude through all the rain (probably didn’t hurt we’re all from the Pacific Northwest) and providing a great holiday week.  Here is hoping to more uncharted adventures with all of these people in the future.

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There was so much rain we couldn’t watch the Seahawks game.

 

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Happy New Year! From a powerboat -shh I won’t tell if you don’t tell.

 

Back in the Boat Life Again

I’m finally cruising again, so I guess it is time to start blogging again.  While taking a break (slacking off) from getting Ventured back in shape for a cruise south from Ensenada to parts south, I recently ran through the list of fellow sailors blogs I follow.  In a way it was rather depressing.  Most of the blogs were from boats that sailed south the same year I did, and several families are already done cruising and back living on land.  Several other boats are arriving in New Zealand and will either work there or possibly sell their boats and return home.  Two cruisers that sailed in the Baja Haha with me have passed away since that event.  RIP Dick and Brian.  It isn’t like I have some cruising high ground, I took the summer off to work and probably will do so next summer as well.  But I find it surprising that for so many friends the journey is already over, when I feel like mine is barely started.  

There are some changes here on Ventured too.  Jenn and Agnus are back on land living in Seattle.  I will have two guys on board for the trip south to Cabo that I met off the Lattitude 38 crew page.  Minion is on board and seems quite happy to be back on the boat, especially when I’m at anchor and he doesn’t have to be harnessed up allowing him to live within more than 6 feet on either side of his tie point. He is working his way through his old boat hangouts, my favorite of which is when he sleeps in a hammock full of clothes hanging over the v-berth. I’m settling back into boat life, and still remembering things about the boat I forgot in my 10 month absence.  I have most systems up and running fine but still need to get lazy jacks installed so my main will be collected on the boom when I drop it.  I have all the needed parts on board so hopefully at the next anchorage I can tackle the project.  It involves going up the mast, always one of my favorite activities.  But there are a couple other tasks up the mast too, including a non functioning steaming light so I think it is time for a trip aloft.  

I will admit getting back into the swing of blogging is proving difficult.  The above two paragraphs were written quite awhile back, but I just never got around to writing more and posting it.  I’m now in La Paz, and probably part of the reason was a somewhat rough trip down the coast, and visit to Cabo.  So, I’ll tease with that in hopes it will force me to focus on writing down the details of the trip.  And in case you are worried I’m now in La Paz and things have been going better.

Chubasco-ed (sort of)

I’m not sure if it is a full on Chubasco, but this morning we suddenly had a strong wind appear out of nowhere. We don’t have an anemometer installed on the boat (although we do have one on the boat…) but the wind was enough to wake Jenn up. Some of us were already up, I guess the males on the boat are early risers.
While we have heard Chubascos can have winds up to 70 mph, we are probably maxing out around 30 mph which is nothing we haven’t seen before.

Fog and rain and wind, Oh My!

We are currently watching the wind blow, rain pour and (gulp) occasional lightning strike. It is so gray and rainy I feel like I’m in an episode of The Killing. On the plus side since we still happen to be on a mooring ball we don’t have to worry about the anchor dragging, although I have warmed up the engine just in case we need it for something unexpected – or would that be expected since I’m getting ready for said something? Either way, so far this is more fun than frightening, and the boat is getting a much needed fresh water bath. The biggest downside is despite high 80 degree temperature with the wind and rain I’m actually a bit cold. I suppose I could solve this by putting on more than a swimsuit. I seem to recall having foul weather gear on the boat somewhere, but it might require some looking. The other negative is we rely heavily on our solar, which is not making much power at all right now. I do love my green energy but it looks like it may take some good old fashioned fossil fuels to get our batteries charged back up today.

A blue catamaran next to us riding out the weather.

At least we aren’t anchored over by the resort trying to hang out by the pool today!

Not Quite The Post I Had in Mind

So… I wrote a long post with lots of pictures, and had a computer glitch that wiped it out, despite WordPress supposedly auto saving drafts of your work.  Sigh… We are leaving La Paz this morning for some cruising up around the Puerto Escondido area, and need to get the boat going so we can reach our first anchorage by nightfall.  There will be limited internet up in this area, so blog posts might be a bit infrequent, let alone one with lots of pictures.  However, I’ll try and recreate it and get it uploaded somewhere along the way – there are reports of some wi-fi here and there in the area we’ll be hanging out it.  I’ll try to remember to keep the Spot on if anyone wants to track us.

 

Housekeeping

As the sharp eyed reader may notice, we’ve made a few changes to the blog (ie, we picked a new theme from a list of hundreds available). I’m also trying to post bigger pictures so you don’t have to click on the small ones to see a more viewable image. I still need to do a little fixing on the last post – or leave it and focus on future posts.

We’ve (and by we, I mean Jenn) added some widgets to the side bar including a Blog Roll of boats we’ve met and enjoy keeping up with both in person and online. Feel free to check out our friends – just as long as you don’t like their blogs better!

I’m attempting to go through my old posts and clean up the tags and categories so the blog will be a bit better organized. I know, exciting stuff but I have to come up with something to amuse myself with all my free time.

And just to keep up the visual interest, here is a picture for all of you dealing with Snowmagaddon back in Seattle.

Beach in Still Life (Photo Credit to Jenn)

Sailing is Fun

Just a quick post (for once).  My sister Ahmis and her friend Verdell are in vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, coinciding with our trip visit to Banderas Bay.  After a days delay in plans because of some winds with a velocity exceeded my threshold for relaxing sailing, we met up yesterday to just go sailing.  A quick trip in the dinghy brought everyone aboard, and up came the anchor for the first time this year, as we dropped it on Christmas eve.

Ahmis takes a turn at the helm

For the first time since we bought Ventured we went sailing without a destination and a time constraint.  Once the sails were hoisted, we trimmed for a nice reach in some light wind, and just sailed to the wind, easing our way slowly towards Puerto Vallarta in a nice relaxing sail.  After a couple hours we turned around, and headed back, meanwhile firing up stove for some very tasty hamburgers to fill us up after our guacamole appetizer.  The sun was out, the wind varied a bit, enough to keep us moving at the least, and at times picking up enough to scoot along.  Since for once we didn’t have a GPS on, we were never actually knew how fast we were going. This was kind of a pleasant change of pace from out typical speed watch, trying to maintain an average speed that would get us to a destination at a planned time.

How steering should be done

All in all it was a great way to spend a day, sun, family, friends and some relaxing sailing just for the pure joy of it.  A lot of us cruisers love to sail, but after a few months of sailing as a means to an end – getting to the next port – it was great to just sail for the fun of it.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do some more sailing while we are here that doesn’t involve any goal other than enjoying the experience of sailing.

Our crew for the day - notice the relaxation?

Starting to feel Tropical

Sorry for the blog silence – it was my Christmas gift, a break from reading my long winded posts.

I don't think we are in Baja anymore

Tucked in a little bay midway between San Blas and Banderas Bay is the village of Chacala.  Having decided to skip Isla Isabella on our way south from Mazatlan (we’ll catch in when we head back north in the spring) we aimed for Chacala instead.  Or course, our timing ended up a little off and we found ourselves approaching a strange anchorage in the dark.
The are numerous warnings about Mexican charts being off, so that your GPS will show you anchored on land.  So far, our chart chip has been pretty accurate, other than our track showing our boat going across the entrance jetty at Cabo.  Still – I don’t trust the GPS here the way I did on the trip down the coast with US charts.  So we rely on the radar, peering at the shore with binoculars, and the chartplotter with a grain of salt.  While Chacala is a  fairly open bay, we found it a rather challenging approach.  And after sharing every anchorage we’ve been in with numerous other boats, for once we couldn’t spot a boat on the hook, and several radio calls for assistance went unanswered.  We crept in, adding the depth sounder to our navigation tools as we closed on the bay.  Finally we felt we were in the anchorage area, although struggling to pinpoint our exact location and a bit unnerved by the sound of crashing surf on the beach.  We did spot another boat at anchor, and they must have spotted us because their spreader lights came on as we approached them.  If they would have just answered the VHF and turned them on as we approached, we would have significantly less frazzled nerves.  We picked a spot, and anchored probably a bit closer to the boat then we should have, but if one boat was anchored in the area we hoped it was a decent spot.  We debated if some odd looking water nearby was exposed sand, but decided it was just water flattening out a bit.  After setting the anchor and watching our position for a bit, we were off to bed, Jenn electing for a spot in the cabin that didn’t feel as bouncy at the v-berth where I crashed.

A little early morning fishing from the boat

A little early morning fishing from the boat

After a good nights sleep I was awakened by roosters.  Somehow I sleep through machine gun fire in Mazatlan, and can’t sleep through a rooster crowing.  We watched the anchored boat leave at first light, then launched the dinghy and headed to shore, admiring Ventured sitting all by itself in an anchorage for the first time.  Unbeknownst to us at the time we misread the guide book, so we landed the dinghy at the end of the beach in mild surf instead of in a protected little beach for boat landings.  We drug the dinghy up the beach (I swear, I’m putting the wheels on before we leave PV) and set off to explore.  About halfway down the beach a stranger walked up and told us the police had just ticketed our dinghy, and told us about the better dinghy landing everyone uses.  I put out the opinion that we should just leave it since returning probably meant having to move it and pulling it up and down the beach is a bit of a workout, but this option was vetoed.  We walked back and found the Port Captain had left his forms for us to fill out.  Of course, four trips to the Port Captains office throughout the day yielded nothing but a locked gate so we finally just tossed the form on the stairs behind the gate.  When  we made our first couple visits we didn’t have the paper work since we had left it on the boat.  We decided to go ahead and enjoy the beach a bit first.  We wandered around the town, probably the most rustic town we’ve been in since Turtle Bay.  Chickens roamed the streets, as did numerous dogs and even a cute kitten at one of the souvenir stands.  We even spotted a sheep in the back of a pickup driving through town.

Don't drop our boat!

I'm adjusting to anchorages with waves breaking on the beach.

After the desert topography of the Baja Haha peninsula, and the city scape of Mazatlan, Chacala is a tropical paradise.  Palm trees lined the beach, with a row of Palapas before the beach gave way to jungle stretching down to the golden sandy beach.  We walked the beach, swam in the ocean and I even body surfed a few waves. It is a bit strange to be surfing in waves when our boat was anchored just a few hundred feet away.   Sadly, between trips to the Port Captain’s office, and no other cruise boats being around to clue us in, we missed out on the hike that our friends on SV Bella Star went on a few days before.  Lucky for us they posted lots of pictures so we were able to enjoy the trip later reading their blog.  Despite our lack of duplicating their hike, we had a great time relaxing on the beach, grabbing some fresh ceviche at a Palapa, wandering through the town and enjoying a fresh pineapple filled with fresh fruits and veggies such as cucumber, jicama, and papaya.  While we saw a few gringos in town, the vast majority of the tourists appeared to be from Mexico.  There was no huge mega resort on the beach, giving us an authentic Mexican tourist experience.  Even the little tourist stands Jenn drug me into had shopkeepers that did not speak English, so we weren’t berated with the typical sales pitch we receive in the more resort based towns we go into.

Local girls inspire us to try a Pineapple drink

But first, some ceviche.

So delicous!

Even a small town gets some boutique B&Bs

The jungle takes over

Of course we take pictures of the local wildlife.

It is a major effort not to end up with a puppy on the boat.

This is paradise.

All in all Chacala was a great stop on our way to Puerto Vallarta.  While it would have been fun to meet some other cruisers there that may have known a bit more about the area, we enjoyed admiring Ventured alone in the anchorage all day long (I’ll only post one or two of the pictures…).  I highly recommended a stop over in Chacala for any boats transiting between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay.  We have even considered sailing back up for another visit if we stay in the the Puerto Vallara area for an extended period of time since it is only a 45 mile trip, a day sail with good wind.

Apparently our lack of fishing success is not due to a lack of fish.

We departed Chacala the next morning after another rather rolley night at anchorage (note to self, rig up a stern anchor) and without the above mentioned good wind motored most of the way to Banderas Bay, where we are currently anchored near the quaint town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (don’t feel bad, I’m here and I can’t pronounce that last word either).

Another sunset at anchorage.

Minion says he will help fund the crusing with some male modeling.

Happy New Year from Erlin, Jenn and Minion!