Adios Amigos – for now…

It was a good run, but our decision to spend the summer in the Sea or Cortez brought our buddy boat fleet to an end. We’ve had a wonderful time and will miss our new friends terribly, but this is part of cruising. Even as Jace and Bella Star head south (with Panache to follow when Zach recovers from last night’s goodbye party) Jenn is thumbing through our guide book for the Sea of Cortez to make sure we really want to spend the summer there. Our friends are off to do the El Salvador Rally, which we have considered (with much encouragement). Meanwhile, we will wander back up Mexico’s Gold Coast, spend a little time back in our adopted home of La Cruz, then start working our way to La Paz for a jump north. Both groups have been encouraging the other to join them by stating the benefits of their plan. We were informed that boats are fixed for free in El Salvador, while we claimed in the Sea of Cortez the fish not only catch themselves, they clean and prepare themselves too.

Ben brings Jace to an anchorage in his Gortons Fisherman foulies

Molly, Mickey, JP and Ben from Jace

Mickey and JP on Jace even captured Minion on their Nintendo DS attempting to change our plans. This is a handheld video with a digital camera of the DS, complete with directors commentary. Pardon the video quality, but this had to be shared!

We though about continuing to Zihuatanejo, but it is close to 200 miles without the short hops we’ve gotten used to here on the Gold Coast. We’ll see it on our next trip south, but right now our plan is to get an early start on the Sea of Cortez so we can be heading back south a little earlier next year. Unless we go to Mazatlan for Carnival… It is hard to make these plans in advance. Even Jace and Bella Star are undecided about their plans after El Salvador, so we cling to the hope that we may see them up north with us in a couple of months.

Zach, back in the La Cruz phase of our trip.

But for now, we are on our own. There are the never ending boat projects to catch up on, some stops we missed on our way south to explore on our way back, some favorites to stop at again, and some old friends waiting back in La Cruz. But it will be a much different experience with out “Belvenache” and Jace as cruising partners. To Ben, Mollly, Mickey, JP, Aarron, Nicole and Zach – fair winds and following seas, thanks for enriching our cruising adventure, and we’ll miss you until our voyages cross wakes again. Our livers, however, won’t miss you!

A sad sight, Bella Star leaving while without us.

Ventured & Bella Star, dressed up for cruisers on New Years Eve


A Day in the Life

This was supposed to go up a couple days ago, but… it didn’t.  Oh well, hopefully it will still be enjoyed.  I’ll try to write about yesterday’s jungle hike today, but… I might not.  It depends on how smoothly the water pump pressure switch replacement goes.

I suppose this is a post all of us cruising bloggers write at some point, but today feels like a good day to share my doing quite a bit while not really doing anything at all.

Jenn suggests a birthday present for Minion.

Despite it being Sunday, we actually got up and off the boat by about 9:00 am.  Of course, we took some time to sing Happy Birthday to Minion and give him some raw tuna for breakfast as a gift for his first birthday before we left.  We then went ashore and walked to the Huancaxtle Cafe to meet Bella Star for breakfast.  There we found out they were closed till 10:00 am, and would have a buffet at  11:00 am that cost a little more than our breakfast budget.  We radioed Aaron and Nicole to let them know, and after meeting in person we all walked up to The Octopus Garden.  We had been there once before, just for a drink, and really like the space the restaurant is in, plus Aaron wanted to try their pancakes.  Of course, they aren’t open on Sunday.  Another radio call to Anon, who was supposed to be meeting us there, along with the visiting Hello World crew who had a bag of goodies they brought down from stateside.  So another hike through town brought us to Eva’s Brickhouse, where we ordered coffee and someone got a bloody mary (hint, it wasn’t me).  When Keith from Anon arrived we found out he wanted to go to another place for some music with breakfast but we had already put in the beverage order so we agreed to meet them later.  Sometimes VHF conversations don’t quite seem to communicate all the important details.

I can’t say we enjoyed our breakfast at Eva’s – they had no pancakes for Aaron, we had to wait for refills on coffee because our waiter told us someone forgot to start the next pot, and the cook came out and yelled at us for telling our waiter what ingredients we didn’t want in our omelets, not what we did want.  Our waiter explained his behavior with the words “Italian Cook.”  After all that, the food was decent but priced more for tourists than locals.  I doubt any of us will return with so many other choices in town (on any morning but Sunday anyway).

A quick break from doing nothing to help Ben on Jace, who was not having a lazy day.

We then proceeded to wander around the local market.  We were told later that the merchants at this Sunday market have to either make their goods, or grow or use locally grown products for the food items.  Of course when you live on a small sailboat you usually aren’t shopping for local handicrafts, but we did grab a tasty salsa and some caramel filled pastries.  We also chatted with a few cruiser friends we ran into, and caught up with Jason and Christy from Hello World.  I glanced at enough jewelry, baskets, organic produce and Mexican blankets to last me for at least a couple months.

Jenn and Nicole practice their shop till you drop skills.

I think I would rather catch a real one than have this on the boat.

Pretty safe to say this artist is producing locally made goods.

Aaron amuses himself without checking out locally produced goods.

Finally marketed out, we took a quick trip back to Bella Star to drop off our purchases and the goodie bag from Hello World.  Somewhere along our trip through the market we picked up Zack from Panache, since his plans for the day hadn’t been made yet.  Our load lighted up a bit, we set off for a beach hike.  We headed east along an almost deserted beach where we spent some time making sure Ventured seemed okay in the anchorage, as there was enough swell coming for some locals to surf just a few hundred yards from where we were anchored.  Every thing seemed okay from our vantage point so we continued down the beach, stopping to look at birds, explore some tide pools, attempt to skip some rocks and just kind of take it all in at a relaxed pace.

A little shore break just behind the anchorage.

Some local wildlife.

We eventually arrived in Bucerias, which after some later inspection I determined is apparently Spanish for souvenir stand.  But before we explored that portion of town, we quenched the thirst we had worked up with some cervesas, then decided we had worked up enough appetite for some tacos.  Of course there was an ice cream shop next door to the taco stand, and we felt obligated to spread our tourist pesos around to support the local economy.  However as we wandered through several streets of souvenir stands our generosity dried up, despite being told that items were “almost free.”

I do love the colors in Mexico.

Zach takes a new apporach to sampling salsa. I prefer using tortilla chips.

We braved the guantlet. Sometimes you have to be adventurous when traveling.

The girls were relieved to find out if they join a cult, they can still have stylish clothing.

Finally feeling the pull of home, we walked up to the highway just in time for a dash across to hop on the bus that pulled up moments after our crossing.  A short ride later we spilled off back in La Cruz, and walked back down the the Huancaxtle Cafe just in time for happy hour.  Which they don’t have on Sunday, plus they were out of draft beer, our favorite happy hour special.  We’ve been having a great time at this place the last few days, and Jenn even thought the wings we had there yesterday were the best we’ve had in Mexico but today just wasn’t their day for us.  JC, our very friendly waiter, promised to try to get more draft beer ASAP and discuss adding a Sunday happy hour with the management.  So instead it was back to Bella Star for a couple drinks and a discussion that mostly centered around movies, ending with a couple list of movies for each couple to watch.

As it was getting on towards Minion’s dinner time we said our goodbye’s and headed back to the boat.  More tuna for Minion  while Jenn whipped up some beef stew, and I typed this.  And now that it is just about ready I’ll wrap this up while so we can eat, then get some pictures together and post it after dinner.  One does have to keep their priorities straight, and eating Jenn’s cooking is one of mine.

Nothing completes a day in Mexico like being chased by a Chihuahua in a pink sweater.

Tomorrow probably won’t be so exciting as it will include the search for a pressure switch for our water pump which will now not shut off after we shut off the faucet like it is supposed to.  Hopefully the full moon beach bonfire in the evening will be exciting, but not too much so since we are up early for a jungle hike on Tuesday.

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!