Beating a Path off the Beaten Path


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.  


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.  


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


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)


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


The duo of Arcano.


A stage full of entertainment.


Somehow there always ends up being Mexican folk dancing.


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).  


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


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.


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



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



Welcome Back

This will be short post – I swear. Maybe only six or seven paragraphs.

The Burning Man event has a greeting for everyone as they arrive on the Playa – “Welcome Home.” Arriving back in La Cruz feels like that to us, a feeling not at all hurt by making it to the anchorage in time for Happy Hour at the Huanacaxtle Bar and Cafe. Nothing to make you feel welcome like a hug from the owner when you walk in after a 5 week absence. After some 10 peso draft beer we wandered the familiar streets, at some street tacos (although not at our favorite taco stand because we were a bit too early for them) and headed back to the boat to call it an early night. After a 30 hour passage to reach La Cruz and no nap after dropping the hook (which we positioned just about perfectly on our first try, no mean feat with 60 boats in the anchorage by my count) we were ready for some sleep.

Part of our reason for heading back to Mexico was to see if I could jump on a boat for some racing in the Banderas Bay Regatta. Of course, I didn’t realize that there were two regattas, and first one, MEXORC being the serious race boats. I thought it would be over by the time we got here, but it turns we arrived on a lay day and there are three more days of racing. I’m about to go walk the dock and see if anyone needs some crew. If not, I’m sure I’ll be able to some crewing in the Banderas Bay Regatta, which is much less serious but more of a for fun type racing.

Please need crew, please need crew!

After all the fun, it will be time to get to work. Jenn is working up a list of boat projects, and I’ll spend a few days trying to cross items off the list. Once we get some work done, we’ll start the trek north we some new and old stops planned along the way. Banderas Bay has quite a bit supplies available so hopefully we can find the bits and pieces we need for the projects, and any other random items we need.

Time to dig out my racing gear and hope one of these very fast looking sailboats needs an extra hand, even if it just to sit on the rail and be heavy. Everyone has to have a talent.

Viva Mexico

Recently a tour bus in Puerto Vallarta was robbed by masked gunmen. No one was hurt, just relieved of their valuables. A friend forwarded me a link to the news with the admonishment to be careful while I’m down here. My response was to thank her for the heads up, as I needed the reminder to not be complacent. We’ve been in Mexico for four months now, and so far our biggest crime prevention measure is to hoist our dinghy out of the water and lock it to the boat at night. Which I might be tempted to do just about anywhere now, considering how easily mobile a dinghy can be. Yes, we lock the boat when we are off of it, but often the companionway door is locked while a hatch big enough to climb through sits open so the breeze can blow in. We wander around small towns after dark to visit our favorite taco stands, take buses into non tourist areas, and wonder up and down local streets looking at shops or searching out some particular business.

I suppose we could be robbed at some point, but so far I’ve been no less worried about it here than back home. I pay attention to my bags, keep a good grip on the camera when I have it out, and be careful to not flash too much cash (pretty easy in my case…) Just as there are places not to go in most cities in the US, there are areas to avoid here. The problem is just not being as aware of them, but with common sense I don’t think they are hard to avoid. I spoke with one boat that hailed a harbor master in a port not in any of the guide books about entering the harbor. The harbor master asked them why then wanted to come there, and told them there was nothing there. They, as I would do, chose to sail to the next port.

Despite the recent robbery, we are having a wonderful time in Mexico, and have never felt unsafe. The people have been friendly and helpful, even when my broken attempts to speak Spanish don’t convey the correct message. But I still try, and I’m getting a bit better at it although I still have a long way to go. I can sometimes communicate more than an order of beer and tacos. The places we’ve frequented multiple times have seemed to enjoy having us return to their businesses.

And speaking of returning, we are entering a new phase of our cruise. Retracing our steps. I had to think about it, and realized this won’t be the first time we’ve anchored in the same place twice. When we sailed from La Paz to Mazatlan we stopped at an anchorage we had used on our way from Cabo to La Paz. But this is the first time we are stopping in towns we have visited, and will be seeking out places we shopped or ate. While everyone raves about the French baker in Barra (except for Ben on Jace) with good reason, we found a local bakery with croissants almost as good at a quarter of the price we’ll be swinging by. I’m looking forward to a walk on the empty beaches at Chamela. We’ll stop by a place that let use their internet all afternoon for a couple cheap beers and some nachos – in fact that is probably where I’ll upload this.

And of course we can hardly wait to get back “home” to La Cruz where we have many favorites, none more so than the Huanacaxtle Bar and Cafe and their 10 peso happy hour draft beer, free plates of Jicama, friendly service and Karaoke parties. As mentioned before it will be a bit bittersweet without our close friends that have sailed south, but we’ll toast them, renew old acquaintances and make new friends. And after that, back to La Paz where we will have the mouthwatering Shack Burger we have been craving since we left.

Mixed in with the familiar will be some new stops, a couple anchorages on our way north that we skipped on the way down, and hopefully a visit to San Blas on our way up to La Paz before we cross the Sea of Cortez back to the Baja side. And finally, up into the Sea of Cortez for the summer with countless bays and anchorages to explore. We’ve heard tell of clear waters, that you almost live in to help with the heat. Even with some hardships we are hoping for a summer of of new experiences, sights and locations. We thought long and hard about the Sea for the summer and in the end decided that after we had sailed such a long ways from Seattle to a renowned cruising ground we shouldn’t pass it by. Plus I’m cheap and we had only made it two chapters into our guide book for the sea and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my monies worth out of it just yet.