A leisurely pace

Quick note – I wrote this, then decided to edit it a bit and by the time I got to that, we were in an area with no internet where we’ve remained for a few days, so this is just slightly out of date. We just pulled into Mazatlan and have good internet so I’ll try to catch up while we are here.

Our last Banderas Bay sunset. Till our next visit...

We left La Cruz about two weeks ago, with the thought of a leisurely one or two week trip to La Paz. We’ve gone 60 miles, with something like 300 miles left to go. Lethargy has set in so completely I’m not even going to bother to to do the work to figure out exactly how far we have left to go. I suspect we’ll put a bit more of a move on soon, Jenn is out of wine and I’m out of beer. Our next planned stop will be no help in that matter, as it is an  island uninhabited by people about 40 miles north. It does have a huge population of birds, and we are hoping for our first close up sighting of a blue footed boobie. From there the plan is Mazatlan for a day or two to grab some provisions, and then hop across when we get a good weather forecast for crossing the Sea of Cortez.

If I had won that Powerball we could have traveled a bit less leisurely. But they don't sell tickets down here.

We really didn’t mean to crawl along like this, but there wasn’t a lot of wind heading north when we left Banderas Bay, so we stopped at the first anchorage, a small town called Jaltemba which we had skipped on the way down. The Mexican holy week, Semana Santa, had just started and the town was absolutely packed with locals. The beach would fill up with families and bands, the bay with jet skis and pangas towing banana tubes of tourists. At night, the main street would close down and vendors booths of goods and food would open, along with carnival rides and games of chance. The Bandas would sometimes play mere feet away from one another. They consist of a tuba, drums, trumpets and other brass instrument, and clarinets. From the boat you can hear the tuba and drums and not much else, but up close they pour out the sound. There was one other boat in the bay when we arrived, and they left a day later, leaving us alone in a somewhat rolly anchorage, but between the festivities and light wind forecasts we ended up staying for almost a week. Finally we mustered some motivation, and moved on 8 miles to the next stop, Chacala. We caught the last day or so of Semana Santa there, and while there were not as many people overall since is a much smaller town, it was just as packed with people even camping right on the beach.

Jenn gets a fish skewer, a very tasty regional specialty in Jaltemba. The pelican was unable to produce the pesos for a skewer, but did get a scrap tossed its way.

One of the non stop Banana tubes going by.

That is what I call a crowded beach.

Not that is how you go to the beach for a day (or week).

Possibly why the anchorage was a bit bouncy during the day. And this doesn't even show the jet skis...

Nothing says Holy Week like slam dancing to Mexican punk music.

Once Monday rolled around the crowds dispersed, and we decided to once again resume our trek. This time we at least made it about 20 miles to the next stop, another one we had skipped on the way down. San Blas is a rustic little town, know for Jejenes (no-see-um bugs), and for an ex-pat named Norm Goldie who broadcasts offers to assist cruisers daily (and even multiple times a day) but has had severe run ins with multiple cruisers who have somehow incurred his wrath. His presence here has caused more than one flurry of letters to the editor in Latitude 38, a bay area sailing magazine that is a main sponsor of the Baja Haha. Jenn found multiple blog posts from cruisers who had run afoul with him, or heard him berating fellow cruisers on the VHF radio. Our story? Nada. We saw him and his wife in the town square a couple evenings, but just decided to steer clear. As much as I enjoy an adventure to blog about, it just seemed prudent to keep a low profile. We spent a day or so anchored out in the bay, then took Decade Dance up on their offer to lead us into the estuary when we decided to get a couple nights at the marina. The surf landing in the bay looked a bit intense and was still several miles from town, we needed water, and we hadn’t given the boat a good wash in awhile. So we broke down and reserved a couple nights at a dock. Between the work on the boat, we did visit town for supplies, and found a local bar named Billy Bobs with a 10 peso beer special on our first day in town, and an 8 foot or so crocodile named Fluffy in a cage in the back. That bartender didn’t have much to offer for food and encouraged us to buy something elsewhere and bring it back to the bar. Have I mentioned how great Mexico is?

How we pass our time when we are taking it easy.

Yup, I'm guilty too.

Minion doesn't need us to nap, just an empty kitty litter bag. Ahh, the simple things in life.

With the boat cleaned, water tanks filled, and some showers (granted with no hot water) taken, we left the dock. It was a bit of sad departure because the wi-fi antenna we picked up at a swap meet in La Cruz was pulling the marina’s wi-fi in just great on our boat and giving us some nice download speeds to catch up on some TV shows and movies we were behind on (hello season two of Game of Thrones!). And then, the departure got worse. We were passing the fuel dock and decided to stop to top off on diesel, however we were already a bit beyond the dock. No problem, I’ll just back up, which was going great till we hit bottom. While we weren’t going fast, there was enough momentum to feel the boat lift up a bit. The problem with this (other than the obvious that it is never good to hit the bottom) is that our boat has a centerboard which I had neglected to raise while we were the shallow water of estuary. If I had hit going forward, it could have swung up, but in reverse it was a bit like bending your knee the wrong way. The stress on the line used to raise and lower the centerboard caused it to tear the block it runs though off the cabin top. On the plus side it tore out cleanly by just breaking the bolts, and not tearing a chunk out of the room of our boat. We were able to bolt it back down the next day, for once my box of fasteners providing the right bolts.

A little boat project created by a big oops.

Once we were back anchored in the bay, I did some checking from the water side of the hull. Right after the incident we had lifted all the floor boards and didn’t see any water running in. From the outside, it appears the centerboard swung forward and did a minor bit of damage to the trunk the centerboard pivots up into, but nothing structural. We’ve been watching the bilge and don’t appear to be taking on water, and the centerboard still pivots, so while I finally learned a lesson that did cause some damage, it looks like it could have been worse and we are pretty lucky.

There is a haul out yard here in San Blas, and we had considered pulling out here. The bottom of the boat badly needs new bottom paint, and this yard lets you do your own work. However, back to the Jejenes… they don’t seem to bother me, but Jenn has had terrible luck with them despite insect repellant and screens on our boat. Not only do they like to feast on her, she reacts badly to bites with much itching. Also, we don’t have the supplies for painting the bottom and there isn’t a marine chandlery here so I would have to bus back to PV to buy supplies. So we’ll do some checking in Mazatlan, and are also considering La Paz or Escondido for haul outs. We are now leaning towards the bottom work in the spring, rather than waiting for our arrival in San Carlos later in the summer/early fall.

Minion keeps us amused when the going gets slow. And we aren't all napping.

The interesting thing about the last couple weeks has been the lack of a gringo cruising community, if not a lack of gringos altogether. At Jaltemba we saw a heard a few people speaking English, but very few, and for most of the time we were the only boat at the anchorage. There were more boats in Chacala, but we didn’t run into anyone on shore. There were a few gringos in San Blas, but it felt very much a Mexican town, with no mega stores like many of the cruising stops have. My kayak trip to the beach and walk into Mantachan for some supplies put my Spanish speaking skills to the test. Amazingly I was able to determine they didn’t have fresh baked regular bread, although the specialty there was home made breads with various fruits (go figure no regular bread). Since they didn’t have the jack fruit I wanted to try I settled for a coconut and what seems a rather mundane banana bread. When I pulled the kayak up the beach, I was waved over to a table of guys under a palapa that greeted me, and as I walked to and from the town I would frequently receive a smile or wave from someone in a car full of local beach goers. I haven’t heard a morning cruiser net on the VHF for a couple weeks, and as much as we frequently make fun or grouse about them, I am looking forward to hearing one. We’ve said hi to a couple new boats, but for the most part we haven’t run into boats we know, or made new friends. Maybe we just needed a break, maybe it was just the areas we have been visiting. I’ve enjoyed our leisurely trip north, but I’m looking forward to some a city and shopping at more then a little tienda. Some of our staples are running a bit low, and I’m rationing the beer. Jenn has been out of wine for a couple weeks now.

Finally, boat hats! They embroidered them for free while you wait with hat purchase.

Does this really make you want to buy ground pork?

Next post, I write about boobies.  Lots and lots of boobies.

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Welcome to the Jungle

Just another jungle\ocean view from our hike.

I’m not sure her inspiration, but Nicole on Bella Star somehow overcame cruiser lethargy, breaking the chain of happy hours and taco stands to organize a jungle hike with a local resident that promotes her tours on the morning net. April (under the call sign Wave House) is expat from the good ol USA who now resides in La Cruz de Huancasxtle, and has several available tours she can take groups on. Nicole wisely chose a jungle hike, got a group together to fill the van, after much effort found a day we were all free. So on a Monday night we did something I wasn’t sure we would remember how to do, and set an alarm clock. Luckily years of needing to get up for work and engrained the skill into our DNA, and were up and had a pack ready for a day hike in time to head to shore to meet up with the crews from Bella Star, Hello World and Panache.

April picked us up in a Toyota van that isn’t sold in the US, and off we went through downtown Puerto Vallarta, to a river mouth meeting Banderas Bay a bit south of Playa Mismaloya. While driving us there April filled us in the history of the area, and on details of the local architecture. Once we arrived at the trail head, I managed to get my hiking boots on and after a little effort managed to the laces. I think I’ve been wearing flip flops a little too much lately. Zach from Panache braved the hike in flip flops, as they are the official footwear of cruisers.

The hike took us along a trail that generally followed the shore line of Banderas Bay. At first we passed a variety of houses along the trail, but after reaching the end of the little inlet the river flowed out of the houses thinned out and the jungle closed in. April continued informing us on a wide variety of topics, from land ownership issues in Mexico to narcotic flowers in the jungle that make hallucinogen tea. Other details included historic facts about the area, the coconut palm oil industry that has died out, and with some questions from me a rundown on the Mexican political system. All in all, April has a great knowledge base about the area and Mexico and is a great guide. As an avid surfer she also gave us the scoop on some local surf breaks, including the one in front of a house we later hiked by that she had rented a few years previous.

The river mouth at the start of our hike.

Don't tell Minion we pay attention to other cats.

Where we live when we aren't on the boat.

This would make me feel at home if I ever own a house.

Some beautiful scenery. And the jungle and ocean.

Much to my surprise, we didn't encounter armed cartel guards at this house.

The trail meandered up and down, into the jungle, then back down to the beach. We were in a very unique area of dry rain forest, not duplicated until Costa Rica. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, just a few birds, but the topography, flora and fauna and shoreline were amazing scenery. Palm trees, banana plants and even a tree know as a Gringo tree (it has red bark that peels off) along with underbrush and thick patches of vegetation passed by as we began to feel the burn of hiking after weeks of boat life. We do a fair bit of walking around when we dinghy to town, but our legs were unused to the rigors of hiking and I think we all got in a pretty good workout. The trail would take us down to to stretches of beach where we occasionally had to dodge incoming waves or scamper over some rocks, between smooth patches of golden sand.

April advised one at a time on these walkways. I chose to heed her advice.

One of these garned it's nickname because of its red color and peeling. The other wears a lot of sunscreen.

We did see jungle flowers, but I'm only posting one picture of them.

You would think a cruiser could time waves better. Maybe being back in Seattle has put Christy out of practice.

If all trees had bark like this, there would be a lot less broken juveninle arms.

On one stretch of beach hiking, April led us to an abandoned resort. Apparently it was only accessible by boat and during a botched Panga landing the owner had broke his back. He vowed never to return, and the resort is now a rather interesting ruins. There are still stone beds with tile headboards in several places, lacking mattresses and walls to the rooms. There was a small tower with stairs winding around the outside that I braved climbing, leading to an almost castle like turret at the top. We paused to scatter and explore before continuing down the beach. Nearby was a small cabin that is popular with Muslim honeymooners, as the remote location allows the brides to sunbathe sans burquas.

I can see why a panga landing here would go awry.

Lizards really do loose their tails! (No I didn't pull it off)

I need a macro lens, so this will have to do for a close up.April, our tour guide on the right in a picture taken from the tower I climbed.The jungle is taking back over, but we may go restart the resort.

Zach gets a little personal with the ants.

For reasons only mom will understand this reminds me of my childhood.

After a rather remote stretch of jungle and beach we began to approach a semblance of civilization, walking through a beach front resort and a new large mansion complete with tennis courts and a volleyball spot located next to the beach. We finally arrived at some Palapas where we stopped for Michaladas and lunch. Probably my only negative comment for the days experience is the restaurant was a bit pricey, and not that good compared to most of the meals we’ve eaten here. Of course, with no road leading to the beach at Los Animos where we stopped, there is kind of a captive audience of you find yourself there. April bought a slice of Queso pie from a lady selling pie slices, and broke off pieces to share. A rather unique and tasty variety of pie that I’ll have to try again if I find it.

I'm just a sucker for animal pictures.

If this was just out over the water, I would really feel like I was on a tropical island.

Sorry for the blury photo but it was taken quickly to capture Nicole cavorting.

Have to give the dogs some respect too.

After sitting for a spell, it was a little hard to roll back into hiking mode, but after the first few stiff steps we got back in the swing of it, and continued to follow the shoreline to the next little town of Quimixto. This is a rather small and poor town for a couple hundred. Most of the residents have horses, and take turns having a day where they rent their horses to tourists for a ride up to a waterfall. I can’t say I didn’t consider the 150 pesos fee for a ride, but since no one else wimped out, I sucked it up and headed up to the waterfall. I will say moving around on a boat does not stress a bum knee quite as much as hiking up and down a trail for a long hike. I probably shouldn’t have played so much soccer on a surgically reconstructed knee, but these are the foolish mistakes we make in our adulthood. About the time we started up the trail to the waterfall I recognized the trail. In several previous visits to Puerto Vallarta we braved the time share sales pitch in exchange for freebie tickets to things like a booze cruise that stopped at the beach we had hiked to for a much shorter hike up to the waterfall. It didn’t take long to reach it, and much to my surprise there was now a little bar\restaurant with tables on both sides of the river, connected with a small footbridge. We were told rather briskly we couldn’t go up to platforms, prime viewing spot for the waterfall, without a purchase. The prices were quite high, and we weren’t thrilled about less than welcoming tone, especially as were the only ones there at the time. Since the river was not private, Zach and I waded up the waterfall and swam around a bit. Last time I did some cliff jumping but somehow in the neighborhood of 15-20 years later, and not on a booze cruise, I wasn’t feeling the bravery this time.

Hey Macarena! (Yes, that is a veryinside joke)

I think this dog has mad Wizard skills.

Just more ho-hum scenery.

All they need is some Coronas between them.

After enjoying the scenery for a bit, we entered the home stretch and hiked downhill to the beach. We stopped to pet a couple cute local dogs, a Chihuahua, and a mutt that looked like a golden lab with 4″ legs that enjoyed a good belly rub. Once at the beach, April arranged for a Panga to take us back to the van while we arranged for a round of cold Pacificos from a local tienda. After a rather tenuous drop from a fixed dock to a floating boat bobbing up and down in the Pacific swell, we were all aboard with no disasters. We sat back and enjoyed the propulsion of a large outboard engine instead of our own two legs, and quickly motored past the stretch of jungle and beach we had just hiked, picking out places we had seen on our hike. The Panga made a smooth beach landing, we all hopped out and after a quick stop and some sketchy port-a-johns loaded back into the van to head home. April took us on a loop highway around PV for a change in scenery, and discussed the hospitals and health care in Mexico on the way back (as well as some of other tours, which do sound tempting).

Aaron displays some serious balance so he doesn't step in 2" deep water.

I'm thinking about adding Rule #3 to my personal life.

At long last, a waterfall. I used the cold water to cool my burning muscles.

It was a great day out, nice to get away from the boats for a bit and see some different scenery. We all though April was a great tour guide and would recommend her anyone in the area that wants to take a trip out of La Cruz. A few days later I think my legs are mostly recovered, although I’m still a little curious if I can find the spot on the beach that supposedly had hour massages for $20. Of course, that would involve another walk on the beach toward Buscerias. Maybe I should have brought a bicycle!

Would you ride this borro?

Two fisting, doggy style.

In some other brief news, some good friends have finally caught up with us, Leif and Jackie on Dodger Too, and Rob on Wings of the Dawn. While they don’t have burgers to die for like The Shack in La Paz, we’ve started to headquarter at the Huancaxtle Cafe for their 10 peso Happy Hour draft beer and tasty chicken wings. And my quest for a new pressure switch for galley and head water pump was successful, as was my installation of it using some 3M 5200 sealant after the removal of the old switch somehow left no threads in the pump body to screw the new switch into. It never ceases to amaze me how a job that really involves 15 minutes of actual work can turn into a 3 day project of finding a part, gluing in a part that should screw in, waiting for things to dry, hooking things several times, letting the part dry some more, and finally having to rewire one of the connections. It makes it so much more satisfying with the water pump actually stops running when you turn off the faucet.

Cats can swim, we just don’t want to

This is not how you keep your cat happy.

Minion here – my first post. While my owners were busy prepping their blog post and surfing the internet and generally being bad parents, they neglected to pay proper attention to their wonderful cat. And while being neglected, I somehow managed to fall in Banderas Bay. It is all a bit of a blur – all I know is I’m very wet, and somehow managed to get back on the boat using the dinghy floating next to it. At least the water is warm here, someone should come visit, go swimming, and pay better attention to me.

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?