Feb 16, 2006 Letter

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February 16, 2006

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been an incredible, fabulous, fun-filled 3 months cruising the "gold coast" of Mexico.  I took lots of notes in order to update this website once I got my computer repaired.  I'll try not to bore you with too many details, but I do have a few pretty good stories to tell.

On Nov. 20, 2005, our friends Joe and Patricia arrived in La Paz and joined us for the sail across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta.  We really liked La Paz.  It's less touristy than Cabo San Lucas, yet it offers all the services and amenities we want.  We only had 1 1/2 days to enjoy and explore La Paz before setting sail.  Mike and I didn't worry about leaving right away because we were planning to come back to La Paz in March.  However, since that time we have changed our plans and will not be sailing back across the Sea of Cortez.  So, in retrospect, I wish we had spent a bit more time here when we had the chance.  Our new plan is to spend the springtime cruising mainland Mexico between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.  Then spend the summer in Costa Rica.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, we left the Palmira Marina in La Paz to begin our 3-day sail across the Sea.  We anchored at a nearby island the first night under very calm conditions.   This gave us another opportunity to drink "pain killers" and act silly, since we never drink alcohol when we are underway.  A "pain killer" is made of orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream and rum, with a sprinkle of nutmeg.  We had a beautiful sunset and a good night's sleep.

Our journey started with some great sailing with the wind at our back.  But the wind died and we pretty much spent the next 3 days motoring on flat seas under a hot sun with no wind at all.  For night time coverage, Patricia and Joe were at the helm for half of the night, and then Mike and Linda would take over until sunrise.  That arrangement worked out best for all of us for maximum undisturbed sleep.  It also gave me an opportunity to see shooting stars, fields of glowing jellyfish, many dolphins, and some beautiful sunrises.  Joe spotted a whale and Linda was extremely disappointed that she didn't get to see it.  We arrived at the La Cruz anchorage (left) in Nuevo Vallarta in the dark on Friday evening.  We set the anchor easily.  After 3 days at sea, it was nice to sleep without the sound of the engine and without the motion and worry of being underway.

The next morning, we moved to a slip in the Paradise Village Resort and Marina for a couple of nights.  This is a beautiful resort hotel and when staying in the marina, we have full access to the resort's amenities (pool, spa, restaurants, etc).  After washing the salt off the boat, we had mimosas and lunch at the Vallarta yacht club.  That evening we took a 30-minute white-knuckle taxi ride to Puerto Vallarta for dinner.  PV is pretty busy on a Saturday night.  Lots of people, music, sidewalk entertainers, vendors.  We found a romantic patio restaurant and ate an excellent shrimp dinner, then had drinks on the balcony of a beach sidewalk bar.  Patricia and Joe had to catch a flight home the next day and before they left, we were already planning our next trip together.

Mike and I spent the next few days catching up on boat chores (change oil, clean strainers, new filters, check batteries, wash lines, etc.), laundry and shopping.  We used the telephone and computer services at the yacht club to catch up with everyone.  We learned that nobody was planning to visit us over the Christmas holiday.  So at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30, we threw off the dock lines and headed south.  We had a beautiful overnight sail, and once again saw hundreds of flashing jellyfish.  It's quite an amazing site.  I'm guessing that they are jellyfish.  It's like a flash of light the size of a beach ball.  It only lasts a second, and my eyes were darting here and there trying to catch sight of it.  In the split-second before it disappears, I could see what appeared to be tendrils.  This went on for hours.  All the lights flashing under the water .. I felt like we were being chased by paparazzi!

December 1, 2005 - It's Linda's 58th birthday today.  We anchored at Chamela and we were the only boat there.  We took the dinghy to shore and had to beach it going through some small surf.  Drank margaritas and ate fish tacos at a little beach bar with a thatched roof and sand floor.  Stayed until the sun went down and Mother Nature gave me a beautiful sunset for my birthday.  Our launching of the dinghy didn't go as smoothly as the landing, and we both got hit with waves as we tried to push the dinghy out.  Completely soaked.  Thank goodness the water is warm in Mexico!  Then, Mike wanted me to cut his hair.  He has somehow decided that I should be able to cut a man's haircut without any training at all.  So he sat on the swim step and I hacked off all his hair with my newly purchased hair trimmer.  Then he jumped in the water to rinse off as big clumps of black hair floated away.  It actually turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Mike was very happy with it.  So I guess that's my job from now on.  Mike volunteered to cut my hair, but I declined his generous offer.

December 3, 2005 - We weighed anchor at 8 a.m. and motor sailed to Barra de Navidad.  We pulled into the marina at the fabulous Grand Bay Hotel and checked in for one week.  That is, until we found out that it cost over $110 per day for the slip!  That's 3 to 4 times what we've become accustomed to.  I quickly changed my reservation to only 2 days.  We decided to enjoy the amenities that we were paying for, so we sat in the jacuzzi and had Pina Coladas at the in-pool swim-up bar.  Bill and Linda (Creola) heard that we had arrived, and joined us at the pool for another round of drinks.  They are anchored in the lagoon, with about 7 other boats.  We decided to join them.  When we left the marina to move over to the lagoon, we got stuck on a sandbar!  We've never hit bottom before, so we didn't know exactly what to do.  We knew that the entrance to the lagoon was very shallow and that we had to follow a very specific path.  We were told to line up our boat with the red channel marker directly behind us and aim toward the tallest palm tree on the other side of the lagoon.  Well, we must have been looking at the wrong palm tree because here we were, stuck!  We tried putting the engine in reverse, and we tried turning sharply while revving the engine to push off the sandbar.   But no luck.  We were just digging in deeper.  And the tide was going out, so it was going to get worse if we didn't move soon.  Thankfully, Bill and Linda came by in their dinghy to help.  Linda circled the boat with her handheld depth-finder and determined that we just needed to move 2 feet to starboard (right).  They lined up their dinghy against the port side of our bow and cranked their outboard motor full power, while Mike turned the helm full starboard and gunned our engine.  Muddy silt was churning behind us and we started moving.  Slowly, slowly, YES, we're floating again!  Whew.  So glad they came by at that time.  We're definitely going to buy a handheld depth-finder next time we go home.

We spent 9 more days in the lagoon.  Had a great time meeting new friends.  Fourteen of us all went out to dinner our first night there.  The water taxi panga went from boat to boat picking up all of us and dropping us at shore.  Then we walked to a fun little restaurant in this tiny little town and ordered their very popular Molcaletas.  I can't remember exactly how to spell it.  It is a burning hot lava bowl simmering with delicious chunks of whatever.  Doesn't that sound tempting?  Anyway, it was great, and we went back several more times during our stay to have it again.  We also enjoyed lazy days, rainbows, sunsets, playing backgammon and Mexican Train dominoes, shopping at the local tienda, and hanging out with friends.  We joined Barbara and Gary (Hurrah) for some fun excursions to lunch, dinner and a bus trip to Melaque.  I learned about which bug juice is best to prevent mosquito bites (after getting bit about 30 times!), and how to disinfect the fruits and vegetables we buy.  It's too hot to wear much in the way of clothes, so I have to keep myself slathered in sunscreen.  We loved our days here.  The town is great and the anchorage is very calm and protected.  The only drawback was that we couldn't swim off the boat because the lagoon water is murky and not clear.  Probably because it is so shallow with a mud bottom.  It's not inviting.  We kayaked for exercise.  

On December 14, we departed Barra de Navidad and sailed 3 hours to Ensenada Carrizal.  The water was clear and warm (about 85 degrees) so we swam and snorkeled.  We were the only boat there.  This anchorage is totally undeveloped and it was very pretty.  However, the anchorage was rolly, so we didn't get a very good night's sleep.  After a second night of the same thing, we decided to move on.  We motored to Las Hadas in Manzanillo Bay, and anchored near the hotel.  They charge boaters $17 per day to anchor and use their dinghy dock at the hotel.  Kind of a rip-off because anchoring elsewhere is free, but oh well.  It's really lovely here.  We needed groceries, so we took a taxi to Comercial (the major grocery store chain) and got provisions.  Creola was in the anchorage and came over to visit that evening.  We decided to explore the next day, so we took the local bus to Santiago.  Went to the flea market, had lunch, found an internet cafe to check email and walked around town.  We made the mistake of buying some movies at the flea market.  We're getting bored with our DVD collection and wanted some new titles.  These were apparently homemade copies and were crap!  They skipped and jumped around and we got so frustrated we threw them away.  You get what you pay for!

On Thursday, December 18, we departed Las Hadas at 8 a.m. for a 32-hour sail to Ixtapa.  Had wind at our backs, so we flew the spinnaker.  It was a beautiful warm 2 days.  We listened to music, played backgammon, tried to catch a fish (no luck), read, ate, and took turns sleeping.  I like to just sit and stare at the water, the diving birds, the dolphins, and the landscape as we parallel the coastline, heading southbound, usually about 5 to 20 miles offshore.  We spent a day in the Ixtapa Marina, washed the boat, then moved over to Zihuatanejo.

December 21 to January 5 ... 15 days in fabulous Z-town!  We absolutely loved it here.  We anchored in the municipal bay with about a dozen other boats.  Another dozen or so boats were anchored nearby at La Ropa beach.  We made new friends and reconnected with friends from previously anchorages.  What a party!  All the cruisers hang out at Rick's Bar where there is nightly entertainment - either pre-arranged or impromtu.   Rick's hosted a Christmas Eve buffet dinner for about 50 of us.  On Christmas Day, there was a pot-luck all day party at the Las Gatas Beach Club.  Botchee Ball on the beach was a daily activity organized by Bill and Linda on Creola.  We took bus trips to explore nearby towns, got to know our way around Z-town, took walks on the beach, enjoyed cocktails in the cockpits of various other boats, cooked yummy meals, ate out often when I didn't feel like cooking, and learned how to live comfortably at anchor.  We also became fast friends with Rick and Judith on Dreamweaver, and enjoyed ringing in the New Year with them in the plaza (which is the basketball court) on the beach.  The fireworks filled the sky, the Mexican music filled the air, and the local people (young and old) were dancing and singing.  It was fun.

On New Year's Day, we took our dinghies over to Las Gatas Beach Club and went snorkeling near the rocks.  The waves crash on those rocks which creates a lot of surge under the water.  It was fun to let the water throw me around.  We were careful to avoid getting smashed against the rocks, of course.  There were lots of colorful reef fish.  We even saw a school of barracuda.

On January 5, 2006, we said goodbye to Zihuatanejo (we're coming back here in April) and headed north, back up to Nuevo Vallarta.  We put out the fishing line again.  Eventually we will catch something.  In fact, after several hours Mike noticed that he had a fish on the line.  But apparently we had drug it to death.  I guess it had been there awhile.  So Mike took the fish off the line, changed the lure and threw the line out again.  We paid close attention to the line all day, but no bites.  At the end of the day, when we pulled the line in, we realized that Mike had left his safety cork on the hook.  Sheesh.  We're hopeless.

At midnight, Mike woke me up exclaiming "the dinghy's gone!".  We had been towing our dinghy behind the boat on a tether.  The ocean was choppy and the current was strong and the wind was on the bow.  We had been motoring for hours in this sloppy water in the pitch black night (no moon at all).  The last time Mike remembered looking at the dinghy could have been 2 to 3 hours ago.  Oh my God, what should we do?  We decided to turn around and look for it.  For those of you familiar with the ocean, you already know that finding that dinghy would be impossible in these conditions.  We tried to take into account the current and the wind, and reversed our course.  We motored for an hour, but we could go right by it and not see it in this darkness.  Mike was getting concerned about our fuel consumption, so we turned off the motor and just floated out there waiting for morning.  We had no idea when it had come loose or how far the current had taken it.  We were frustrated and angry at ourselves for losing a $2500 boat.  Then, out there in the darkness, Linda saw something.  What is that?  Un-freaking-believable!  It's our dinghy!  We were ecstatic and just couldn't believe our luck.  We immediately decided to name our dinghy "Lucky".  Mike confessed to me that he had said a prayer to Saint Anthony and wondered if he should start going to church.  It kind of freaked him out.  The odds of finding that boat were soooo against us!

We had been concerned about being low on fuel, and now we had wasted hours of fuel backtracking for the dinghy.  The current was strong and working against us, so we were using a lot more fuel than anticipated.  When the sun came up, we decided that we had to turn off the motor and sail.  The wind was light and coming straight at us.  This meant we had to sail off course, and very slowly, tacking every few hours.  We did this for 3 days!  One thing we had to keep in mind was that we didn't HAVE to be anywhere (remember, we're retired!) so taking 3 days and 2 nights to complete a 1-day sail isn't a problem.  In fact, it was fun.  It was sunny, clear, and calm (however, more wind would have been nice).  We played backgammon.  We're hooked on the game.  It was a gift from Patricia and Joe and we love it.  The dolphins entertained us endlessly.  This time they were really putting on a good show - leaping, twisting in the air, flipping.  We also had a few exciting moments trying to reel in a big catch.  Three times we had something big .. we saw them .. but they always managed to get off the hook.  Once, we lost the lure.  Something was so big, it snapped the line.  (Later in the month, we take our friends Janet and Allen out with us and Mike learns how to bring them in.  Allen is an expert fisherman.)

On January 7 at 10 p.m. we arrived in Las Hadas.  Our friends from Hurrah and Shiraz are here, but they will be moving over to Santiago Bay tomorrow because the beach bar music is so loud here.  It goes on all night.  We'll move over there, too, as soon as we get fuel from the fuel dock.  They're closed tomorrow, so we'll wait here a couple of days.  That evening, I watched a woman on the beach do the most amazing Tai Chi routine.  It made me feel guilty that I'm not doing all the healthy things I should be doing.  Then, she lit up a cigarette.  Maybe I'm not so bad after all.

It turns out that the fuel dock wouldn't be getting their fuel supply for another 3 days, so we arranged to have fuel delivered in jerry cans.  Then we moved to Santiago Bay to meet up with our friends.   Dinghied to shore for dinner with Hurrah, Shiraz, Salacia, Enterprise, and Texan.  We left early the next morning and headed for Tenacatita, stopping for a fuel fill-up in Barra Navidad.  Anchored at Tenacatita for the night, and left early the next morning for the all day-all night trip to Nuevo Vallarta. 

January 12 - We checked into the Paradise Village Marina again.  This time we'll be staying here for 6 weeks, until the end of February.  Our friends Janet and Allen have a condo in Puerto Vallarta that they are vacationing at this week, so we took a bus to PV to meet them there.  Their condo is in Playa Los Muertos, on the 6th floor, overlooking the ocean.  It is amazing.  We went out for a great Mexican dinner, then spent the night at their place.  Took a long walk on the beach in the morning after enjoying a delicious breakfast out.  On the bus ride back to the Marina, Mike and I stopped off at Sam's Club and Walmart to fill our backpacks with provisions.

The next day, Janet and Allen took the bus ride out to our marina to spend the night on the boat with us and sail with us the following day.  What a great day it was!  The whales were everywhere!  Allen taught Mike how to reel in a fish.  Mike caught a bonita early in the day which Allen threw back because he said it was too small.  Unfortunately, we didn't catch anything after that.  But we had a fabulous time sailing and whale-watching.  Back in the marina, we had snacks and drank pain-killers, before Janet and Allen had to catch the bus back to PV.  We met them again a couple of days later for dinner and another night at the condo.  They plan to meet us in Key West, Florida next year at this time.  We can't wait!

Mike got a massage while I shopped in PV, then we headed back to the boat.  Just as we were getting settled in at the marina and getting to know our neighbors Mark and Karen (Topaz), I learned about events at home that needed my attention.  So I arranged to fly home, and Mike made a list of boat projects to keep him busy until he could join me on Feb. 7 for our previously planned visit with the kids. 

That pretty much brings us up-to-date.  Mike and Linda are currently staying at Lance and Kimberly's house in California, having fun visiting with all the kids and grandkids.  We all got together for a delayed Christmas celebration.  We're buying all the things we can't find in Mexico and hope we'll be able to carry all this stuff with us when we fly back to PV on Feb. 23.  Check out all the wonderful pictures in our Nov '05 to Feb '06 Photo Album!

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