Happy Holidays From Paradise!
We arrived at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta on Sunday, December 20 after nearly a week of sailing down the coast from Mazatlan. Abby and Neal will be joining us this evening for a week’s visit. We are looking forward to their arrival as we have been saving our Puerto Vallarta explorations until they were with us. We hope to visit PV on Christmas Eve Day and Evening, spend Christmas Day on the beach here in Paradise Village, and visit the Marietta Islands on Saturday for whale watching, snorkeling, and wildlife exploration. Wishing you love, family, and health for the holidays. We’ll be thinking of you and wishing you were here with us! Here is a recap of our week to PV from Mazatlan.
Monday, December 14, 2009 - Readying For Departure
We returned “home” to the boat last night and unpacked so that we could spend today and
tomorrow preparing for our departure to Puerto Vallarta via Isla Isabella, San Blas - Mantanchen Bay, and Chacala.
Russ and I spent the day doing boat chores including a defrost to our new refrigerator and freezer before re-provisioning. I had forgotten how nice a frost free refrigerator and freezer is. It looks like I may need to do a defrost every two months or more. My hair dryer made quick work of the defrost job.
I put up our little Christmas tree, cleaned, and invited Dave and Marcia and Laurie and Michael over for a farewell bar-b-que. This will most likely be last time we will see Juniata for a long time as it is Dave and Marcia’s current intentions of staying in Mexico for a few more years before returning to the Pacific Northwest.
We hope to see Dave and Marcia periodically in California on our trips home. We will see Laurie and Michael in Puerto Vallarta in late December.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - A Whale Tale
I got our Copper Canyon blog posted before we took a bus to the downtown area to the big super market called Mega! It was a beautiful market where we able to get all that we needed for our week long trip to Puerto Vallarta.
We returned back to the boat about 15 minutes before meeting Berkeley Yacht Club friends Mary Ann and Dave Plumb for lunch at 1:00 at the Gus Gus restaurant, 50 feet from our boat. It was nice seeing them. They started their adventure five years ago on their boat Star Dancer, and Outbound 44.
After a catch-up lunch, Dave and Mary Ann returned with us to Worrall Wind for a quick visit and update of new systems we had installed since they were last aboard several years ago. I washed all of the vegetables and repacked the meet for refrigerator and freezer. We closed the ports and hatches, checked out of Marina Mazatlan, gave hugs to Dave, Marcia, Laurie, and Michael, cast off the bowlines and were on our way by 4:00 p.m.
It was an incoming tide with breaking 4-6 waves as we left the channel into the Mazatlan Marina area. Immediately we got a salt water soak from bow to stern. The wind was blowing from the north which would be great for a downwind sail, but the swell was coming 90 degrees off the wind (from the east) which meant we it would be a rough, rocky rolly sail southbound. I went below to secure anything and everything that would get tossed about in those conditions. Having done that as best I could, I took over on the fan tail at the helm, turned the boat into the wind, and we raised the main and jib, then fell off to see how rolly the ride would be, leaving the motor in idle. Russ went below to fire up the computer and and radar before the sun went down. This would be our first night sail on a new moon with only starlight.
As Russ was in the pilothouse, and I was at the helm in very lumpy seas with the motor still in idle, about 1 or 2 miles off the Islands just east of the Mazatlan coast in about 60 feet of water, I noticed a huge splash about a football field away on our portside at 10 o’clock. At first I thought it might be a rock with a breaker splashing against it. Then I heard and saw the spray of the unmistakable blow of a whale. I turned the boat to starboard to make sure there was plenty of distance between us as we continued south bound.
Since the seas were lumpy and the sun was beginning to set, it was difficult to see the whale, but the blows were coming closer and now directly on our beam. I looked and saw a huge whale on top of the water now galloping directly at our beam 200 feet away. Oh, @#%!. If I didn’t get of the way it looked like we would be broadsided. Fortunately, the motor was still in idle. I’m not able to distinguish types of whales. All I know was this guy was BIG and barreling. After one of our Baja Ha Ha hit a whale and sank a little over a month ago, I am a little leary of these big beasts and the damage that can be done to sailboats in short order.
I gunned the motor and the whale fell to the port quarter and dove below the surface about 100 feet away either under the stern or behind the boat. Where was it? Russ came up and wanted to know why I was gunning the motor? WWWWhale! BBBBBig One! We watched and waited. Nothing. Thank goodness, nothing. I put the engine back to neutral and we turned it off. Russ missed seeing the whale it all happened so fast, and of course, I was too occupied getting out of the way to take photos - but it is my first whale talen of any significance.
As the night progressed the stars popped out and were amazingly beautiful. The seas however and our tack southbound was very uncomfortable. It was difficult for us to sleep and rest in these conditions. I tried to nap between 6:00 and 8:00 with no success. I relieved Russ of watch at 8:30 while we readjusted our course and trimmed the sails. The wind was blowing between 15-20 knots, wind waves of 2--3 feet coming from northwest and sets of swells coming directly from west every couple of minutes and only 8 seconds apart at that. Hydro did a good job keeping us on course, but isn’t able to recover quickly enough to reduce the roll when the swells are large and close together.
I was on watch for 8:45 to 1:00 a.m. It was so rolly that I had to concentrate hard not to feel sick. It was very dark so I couldn’t get a good fix on the horizon even with all the lights off. Usually focusing on a fixed object in the distance keeps me from feeling queezy in rough weather. I really couldn’t see much. It made me dizzy to look up and see the top of the mast and wind vane roll from side to side across the star studded sky. Russ was sleeping soundly.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - Isabella is for the Birds!
Before turning over the watch to Russ at 0100 on Wednesday, we changed our course to be more comfortable with more of a following sea swell. By the time I got to bed it was 2:00 a.m. I slept for about a half hour before the swell shifted around again or Russ changed course, then we were rolling again. I came up out of the cabin at 4:00 a.m. unable to sleep in those conditions. We pulled in the jib and gybed the main making sure that this time we stayed on course with following seas. Finally, I went below and slept from about 5:00 -7:30 a.m when I woke to the sound of the motor, The wind had completely died just before dawn.
Once the motor was purring and the watermaker was doing it’s thing, Russ went down for a nap while I was on watch. We arrived at Isla Isabella late morning and we anchored by 12:15 on the east side of the island in front of two large white (bird dung) pillars, right on the latitude and longitude coordinates from Charley’s charts. Time for cleanup, lunch, and launch.
We lowered the dinghy about 2:00 p.m. loaded with binoculars, camera, insect repellant, and water and headed south to a little cove where we beached the dinghy in front of a fish camp where pangas were tied up and the fishermen were cleaning their morning’s catch or repairing lines and nets.
Isla Isabella is known for its seemingly tame wildlife. Tens of thousands of birds habitat this island, primarily frigates and boobies with pelicans and seagulls. As we approached the island we could see swarms of birds fluttering, gliding, ascending, descending, and banking. There are small trees and brush all around the island. Birds are everywhere. We didn’t really need our binoculars and hardly needed to use the telephoto lens on the camera to take close up photos. The birds kept their eyes on us but seemed pretty unconcerned that we were within inches of them and their nests.
The October hurricane and spurred a lot of undergrowth and the trail had overgrown where we couldn’t really see it beyond a certain point. It didn’t matter because we were able to see and take photos very close to he shore line of all the birds and Iguanas we came to see. We Frigates Magfnificents blowing up their red throats to attract their white headed female mates and making an almost a purring sound while doing so.
Iguanas sunned themselves in the late afternoon sun.
A fuzzy white booby chick in its nest with its almost same-size mother who seemed to be giving it instructions on how to pick up straw. The baby was more interested in watching us than in paying attention to its mother. Repeatedly, the mother picked up straw, dropped it, and chirped to her offspring.
In addition the birds and Iguanas, the tide was out and we were able to see some vivid red and blue black crabs scrambling on the rocks.
They weren’t as tame as the birds and didn’t care for our approach. We returned to Worrall Wind late in the afternoon and watched the sunset over the island. By this time our lack of sleep was catching up with us. After eating and sending off a few emails on our SSB sail mail, we were in bed fast asleep by 8:00 p.m. and slept soundly all night without the anchor alarm going off once.
Thursday, December 17, 2009 - Machete and One Armed Man with a Gun
We awoke refreshed. After we cleaned up, ate, listened to the net weather forecast, sent a few more emails, read incoming mail, we weighed anchor by 8:30. We had about 40 miles to travel before dropping anchor. There was essentially not enough wind for us to sail so we motored on a heading of 120 degrees southeast towards San Blas and Mantanchen Bay at about 7 knots per hour.
We put the auto pilot on and only made course corrections to evade long lines left by fishermen in Pangas. Long lines studded with fishing hooks and lure are marked on either side (often miles apart) with flagged buoys. The trick is to not go between the flags so that you don’t get the line hooked on the keel, rudder or propeller of the boat. We made it to Mantanchen Bay around the corner from San Blas and anchored by 3:30. By 4:30, we were in the dinghy headed to shore for a quick look around, possible taxi into San Blas, and to make arrangements for an inland jungle tour up the river off of Mantanchen Bay. The beach looked very tropical with coconut, banana palms, and mangroves. Plumes of smoke dotted the shoreline where there were palapas (shaded outdoor area, constructed with palm and thatch).
There was only one other boat with us in Mantanchen Bay, Om Shanti. The owners are the couple that just published he Cruising Guide for the Sea of Cortez. Shawn and his friend Craig were on board, researching the next Guide for the Mexican Riviera. We met them during low tide as they were dragging their dinghy to the water and we were dragging our dinghy on shore. Both directions were a long drag, as the beach is quite shallow all the way out to the boats, only a 13 foot drop a mile out. So when the tide goes out there is a lot of exposed gently sloping beach. With a heavy outboard motor on dinghy, it is quite a bit of work to pull the dinghy onshore or off.
We took the dinghy to the highest point of the water line and tied it off on a stake to the right of the restaurante Neptuno, hoping by the time we got back it would be floating in the water. Later in the evening we were just hoping the dinghy would still be there.
We had sprayed ourselves with insect repellant before going ashore, but immediately sprayed ourselves again as we were being assailed by no seeums and mosquitoes. We had planned on asking the folks at Neptuno’s restaurant to keep an eye on our dinghy, but the restaurant was closed and no one seemed to be around. In fact, there were very few people on the beach at all and most of the restaurants were either closed or preparing to close. We walked down the dirt road to the next restaurant, Playa Hermosa.
There was a a choking smolder coming from a smoke pot from under the palapa close to the kitchen. The owner Alicia in her 60’s and her employee Baro about 40, explained to us that the smoke created by burning coconut husks kept the mosquitoes and no seeums at bay.
Late afternoon and morning were the worst times. We had a cold beer. We were the only customers, and as far as we could tell, we may have been the only customers on entire beach. Baro and Alicia said midweek was quiet and local folks were attending a Navidad festival in San Blas. Alicia has two children, both are in the U.S. Army. Her daughter is a doctor in San Diego with the Army. She has gone to visit her children, but doesn’t think they will ever come back to Mexico. We couldn’t quite make out enough from our limited Spanish to know if there was some special immigration advantage for non-Americans by joining the U.S. military.
While we drank beer and they proceeded to close down the restaruant for the day, they offered to call a taxi for us. The taxi arrived about 20 minutes later, and all of us, including Alicia and Baro squeezed into the cab. We were a bit unnerved when Alicia brought a big unsheathed machete into the cab. Visions of psycho played through our heads.
We left our little dinghy on the beach unattended as no one was around. Baro offered to keep an eye on it the following day when we went on the jungle tour, but for now it was on its own. And we were on a deserted beach in a cab with three strangers, one of whom had a machete! If thee folks hadn’t seemed so nice, we would have been seriously worried.
We dropped off both Alicia and Barrow on the way to town, but before doing so Alicia made arrangements with the same taxi driver to pick us up at 9:00 p.m. and bring us back, and recommended a restaurant in town called La Isla Tony. Tony is Baro’s uncle. It was a few blocks from the main square, and we most likely would never have found it if it hadn’t been recommended and the taxi driver had taken us directly there. The walls and ceiling of the restaurant was filled with seashell art.
Russ and I had some of the best food we have had to date in Mexico. Mantanchen Bay’s northwestern point separating the bay and the town of San Blas is called Punte Camaron (shrimp). So naturally, we decided this would be the place to order shrimp. Russ had shrimp in a rich white cheese cream sauce and I had Mexicana, spicy with vegetables, plump, succulent, and delicious. Bueno!
After our meal, we walked the few blocks into town. The children had just finished performing Christmas songs and families were milling around in the town square eating ice cream, sitting on benches, playing tag, and crossing the street to attend evening mass at the church. Russ and I also milled around, visited local shops and stalls and were eating an ice cream on a park bench about 8:00 p.m. We had seen just everything there was to see in town and were wondering what to do for the next hour.
There were some other Americans sitting on a nearby bench. The women had wondered off towards a shop, and a big older American man struck up a conversation with us. We think he may have been the man referred to as grumpy Goldy in Charlie’s Charts. He didn’t really tell us his name, but he asked us “Haven’t I seen you folks here before?” We told him it was our first time to San Blas. He asked where we were staying, and we told him we ,were nchored in Mantanchen Bay. He looked at us and asked where we left our dinghy. When we told him, he just looked at us like we were idiots and said “Hmmm.”
After this brief conversation and what wasn’t said, we became increasingly uncomfortable about our dinghy. What if someone took it or took off our motor, how would we get back to our boat? Our boat was anchored a mile or so off shore. We worked ourselves into such an agitation, that we walked over to the taxi stand where we were to meet our driver 45 minutes early. The other drivers made a call to Lupe our driver and he came within a few minutes to take us back to where he had picked us up.
As we drove down the deserted beach road, a one armed man dressed all in black stepped out from the shadows with a gun! It turned out he was a private security guard for the beach road. He asked Lupe what his business was and presumably Lupe told him he was dropping us off so we could get back to our boat. The guard was satisfied and let us pass. A little of our anxiety lifted when we realized that the guard was probably cooperatively payed by the palapa/restaurant owners to prevent night time mischief and vandalism of their open air establishments.
Lupe swung the taxi around and shone the headlights where we had left our dinghy. And
there it was! What a relief. Everything was just as we left it and the water was only a few feet from the back end The driver kept his lights on it until he was satisfied that we had started the motor and were headed out to the boat. We had left our anchor light and some interior lights on when we left, so that the boat was visible and looked occupied, so we didn’t have any problem finding the boat in the starlit night. We raised the dinghy on its davits out of the water and went to bed.
All and all, except for our own imaginations running amok and a few no seeum bites, we had a very pleasant afternoon and evening with very sweet and friendly Mexicans.
Friday, December 18, 2009 - Not Disneyland Crocs!
We had read in our guide book that if we wanted to see the most abundant jungle life, we should go early in the morning. Since “early” means different things to different people, we decided that 9:00 a.m. would be early enough, at least for us.
For our day in the jungle, we pulled out the heavy artillary, DEET 30. We both wore bathing suits in case we decided to swim in the fresh water spring and shirt cover ups. Where the shirt and shorts didn’t cover, we slathered ourselves with repellant and headed to shore about 8:00 a.m. We had about a half hour walk once we tied up the dinghy. We drug the dinghy on shore and tied it to a large rock in front of the Playa Hermosa Palapa.
The restaurant would not open until 9:00. Alicia had offered to make us a “Starbucks” like cup of coffee when they opened, but we wanted to get to the jungle ride early. We did meet Baro and Alicia, machete in hand, walking down the road towards the restaurant as we headed toward town and the jungle ride. Baro promised to look after our dinghy so that we could enjoy our day without worry.
We arrived at the jungle tour. We were the only tourists in sight. The 4 hour boat tour required a minimum of 4 people or we could pay the 4 person price of $440 pesos, about $35. We waited about 5 minutes and when no one else showed up, we paid the 4 person price and had the guide and the boat to ourselves. We were told to keep our hands and feet in side the boat. This wasn’t Disneyland and the crocs were real.
I kept thinking of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the Jungle Queen, wondering if there were leeches in the water…or worse, snakes dropping out of trees.
The tour took us to a croc farm at the mouth of a natural spring where native animals were being housed and displayed including parrots, deer, and wild boar.
The mouth of the spring was closed off by a fence, presumably to keep the crocs out of the spring. Tilapia and turtles were abundant in the spring. The owner had some very large crocodiles in cages, one of which was over 50 years old and quite a giant.
After leaving the croc farm, we headed up another branch of the river to another freshwater spring and swimming hole, once again gated off with a chain link fence running through the water to keep out the crocs.
We met a nice Canadian family at the restaurant. The father was about our age. His two grown daughters with their children and his teenage son all went swimming. The girls had been to pond 13 years before when they were teenagers and had fewer hesitations than we did about swimming in the spring. Somehow, that chain link fence just wasn’t convincing enough for us to do anything other than cool off our feet.
We enjoyed an hour at the springs, eating lunch, socializing with the Canadians, and drinking cold beer before heading back down the river to the sea.. We arrived at the jungle boat port around 1:00 p.m. Thanking our guide, we headed back down the road to our dinghy. When we got to Playa Hermosa, we were ready for another cold beer and some coconut milk. Baro now showed us what the freshly sharpened machete could do as he wacked the top of the coconut.
We sat under the palapa drinking coconut milk, looking at our boat bobbing up and down in the bay and wondering if this was all real or just a dream.
The tide was once again going out, almost faster than we could drag the dinghy to the water’s edge. Unthinking, I took off my bathing suit cover-up as we labored under the afternoon sun. My arms, chest, and back had not be slathered with DEET, and within minutes I had 15-20 new bites from no seeums. Immediately, upon returning to the boat, I showered and dabbed the bites with After Bite. Unfortunately, I think we carried some of the no seeums back to the boat in our hair and clothing. Despite our efforts to keep the critters out of the boat with our no-seeum screens covering all of the ports, hatches and doors, we got more bites during the night as we slept.
Saturday, December 19, 2009 - Itchy Scratchy on Our Backy!
Well, we got our share of bites. I got most of them I think. I could now see the no seeums glued to the inside of our screens against the light of the morning sun after their midnight feast on my arms, neck, ears, and face. I squirted the little devils with mosquito repellant and they died on the spot. Small victory. I spent the rest of the day dabbing myself with After Bite. We later learned that Mantanchen Bay is the No Seeum Capital of the the World.
Today was the day I decided! Time for a haircut. I couldn’t stand the growing mop any longer and asked Russ if he were up to the task. He hemmed and hawed, but finally agreed to give it a try. I kept reminding him just a quarter to half inch at a time. I panicked when I saw an inch of hair fall on my shoulder. We reviewed the steps about sectioning the crown, creating a guide, working around, vertical cuts, etc. I took care of the front and sides myself. Together I think we did a pretty good job. My hair is shorter and I don’t feel compelled to wear a bag over my head. That’s a good thing!
We left San Blas, Mantanchen Bay about 11:00 a.m. for a short sail “motor” 20 miles south to another cove called Chacala. We anchored about 3:00 p.m. in 27 feet of water offshore. There were four other boats in the bay including Om Shanti that had been in Mantanchen Bay the day before and Laura, our Baja Ha Ha friends, that we had traveled to the Copper Canyon with. Laura had left Mazatlan two days after we did and had come straight to Chacala on a 22 hour passage. They had just arrived at noon, a few hours, before us. Laurie and Michael had come here 15 years ago on their honeymoon.
The four of us walked around the cobbled streets of Chacala and had beer and margaritas as the sun sunk low in the sky. Russ and I headed back to the boat leaving Laura and Michael so they could have a romantic dinner and celebrate their anniversary. Laurie kept our camera and took pictures of Worrall Wind as the sunset.
Later that evening, they stopped by the boat and dropped off the camera. We all wished each other pleasant sailing, knowing that we would see each other again in Puerto Vallarta at Christmas or shortly thereafter.
Sunday, December 20, 2009 - Nuevo Vallarta
We weighed anchor at 8:00 a.m. and again motored as there was less than 3 knots of wind. The sea was smooth with gentle swells. We had about 50 miles to travel to get to Neuvo Vallarta and Paradise Village Marina. The day was beautiful. Along the way we saw a whale spout and dive, and a few dolphin swimming with the boat. Boobies occasionally circled the boat looking for a place to land, but ultimately deciding not to. We arrived at Paradise Village around 3:00 p.m. and we got settled for the night in a a temporary slip. We will spend the next few days orienting ourselves to the “Village”, cleaning up the boat, doing laundry, shopping, chores, etc. We are looking forward to Abby and Neal’s arrival midweek so we can relax and recreate with them. Have a terrific holiday. Will catch up with the blog after the New Year!