March 29, 2006 Letter

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It was so wonderful to spend a month at home with the kids in California.  And it was very difficult to leave them to return to Aquila.  We are now looking forward to April's Easter week vacation when Kimberly, Lance, Blake, Garrett and Paige will fly down to visit us on the boat in Zihuatanejo.  Sean, Keni and Kailyn plan to visit us this summer in Costa Rica and we hope they do.

As soon as the taxi delivered us to the dock at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, I went straight to bed and couldn't get up for 2 days.  I had a bad case of the flu.  I felt awful!  We had to check out of the Paradise Village Marina the next day and I desperately wanted to feel better.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get a reservation at the Marina Vallarta, so back out to the anchorage at La Cruz we went.  I helped Mike as much as I could, but I mostly just slept for a couple more days.  Russ was arriving on a cruise ship in Puerto Vallarta for a one-day layover that week and I had to get well, because he and his friends were joining us for a day of sailing in Banderas Bay.  Thankfully, on the morning we were to meet them, I had recovered sufficiently.   We weighed anchor and made the 2-hour trip from the anchorage to the fuel dock in Puerto Vallarta to pick them up.  They arrived with bags of groceries for us!   We had a great day sailing (and eating!).  It was fun to spend time with Matt and Marilyn and we enjoyed meeting Bob and Linda.  We're hoping that this experience was positive enough to entice Russ to actually come down and spend a few days with us sometime.  Russ is pictured here relaxing on the bow.  When we returned to the marina at the end of the day, a slip was available at Marina Vallarta, so we checked-in.  Oh, the luxury of shore power!  And fresh water to wash the salt off the hull!  We stayed a couple of days in order to get everything really clean because we would be anchoring out for the next month as we worked out way back to Zihuatanejo.

Dan and Denise invited us to join them on s/v Canace for the Festival Nautico boat parade in Banderas Bay.  We helped them decorate their boat with balloons and streamers.  It was a colorful and festive day with about 80 boats total in the parade.  The prizes for best decorated parade boats and awards for the fastest racing boats were given out at a dinner ceremony on the beach at Paradise Village Resort.  Canace took 3rd place in the "best decorated sailboat" division and received a prize of 3,000 pesos (about $300).  At the end of the evening, we said our goodbyes to Dan and Denise who will be heading north to the Sea of Cortez for the season, while we are heading south to Central America.

We set out the next day (March 5) to begin our journey southbound.  We stopped at the little anchorage of Ipala the first night.  The swells made for an uncomfortable night however.  So we weighed anchor the next morning and continued south, stopping at Chamela.  The last time we passed this way a couple of months ago we were the only boat here.  This time there were 10 other sailboats at anchor and lots of activity on the beach.  The beaches were lined with palapas and people.  After relaxing for a couple of days, we sailed down to Careyes.  This is a pretty little spot with two resort hotels and many colorful villas along the steep hills.  Only about 3 boats can fit in the small anchorage sheltered by the rocky bluffs.  Unfortunately, the swell was coming from the west and made this anchorage very rolly, so we only stayed the one night.

Next stop was Tenacatita.  This is a very large bay with room for many boats.  We were happy to see that Mark and Karen from s/v Topaz, and Michael and Ann (and their large dog Boris) from s/v Night Flight were here.  We promptly made plans to have a progressive cocktail party with them that evening, going from boat to boat.  Topaz prepared lettuce wraps like the ones you find at P.F.Chang's Restaurant, Night Flight made a fruit and nut tray, and we prepared a deli tray with cheeses, olives, sundried tomatoes, deviled eggs and crackers.  The next morning we took 2 dinghies and went on the Jungle River Dinghy Trip.  It was fun right from the start as we had to watch the breaking waves and time our entrance to the Jungle River over the shallow rocky bar.  We coasted in without incident, but our friends in the other dinghy got hit by a wave and got soaked.  We loved the 3-mile ride through the mangroves to the beach at the other end of the river.  We ate breakfast at a palapa cantina on the beach, then made the return trip to the anchorage.  Be sure to view the photo album for this month to see the pictures of the Jungle River.  On our final night in Tenacatita we joined a dinghy raft-up cocktail party at sunset to celebrate somebody's anniversary (any reason for a party!).  We had already lifted our dinghy motor and stowed it in preparation to leave the next morning, so Dave and Jan from s/v Polar Bear offered to give us a tow the short distance over to the raft-up spot.  Each person brought their own drinks and then something to share.  The dinghies tied up in a circle with all the bows together (like a big flower).  We passed the munchies from dinghy to dinghy until all the food was eaten.  It was a lot of fun!

Our next stop was Barra Navidad.  This was one of our favorite spots last December and we looked forward to visiting it again.  We were careful to time our entrance into the lagoon at high tide because it is extremely shallow and the passage is narrow.  We got stuck in the sand on our previous entrance and did not want a repeat.  We were surprised to see so many boats in the lagoon, probably 25.  But it is a large lagoon and we set our anchor easily in a good spot.  We enjoyed 3 days in the lagoon, taking several dinghy trips to the little town to eat or over to Maria's Tienda to shop.  Maria is popular among the cruisers because her little store is stocked with Costco items.  She makes weekly trips to the Costco in Guadalajara, and we all eagerly buy massive amounts of our favorite and hard-to-get items (e.g. quality toilet paper and paper towels!).  Barra Navidad is also where the French Baker makes his rounds every morning going from boat to boat selling fresh croissants, baguettes, and pastries.  No wonder we stayed so long last time!  It was St. Patricks Day while we were here.  The little town next to Navidad is Melaque whose patron saint is Patrick.  The festivities and parades and fireworks continued all week.  We felt like we should have made the effort to take the bus over to Melaque to experience the celebration, but we were too lazy.  And reports from other cruisers about the lack of safety in the use of the fireworks allowed us to justify our decision not to go.  Apparently, bottle rockets are set off right into the crowds!

Our next stop was Carrizal.  This is an undeveloped beautiful little bay.  I loved watching and listening to the waves crashing on the rocky shores.  We just relaxed here on the boat for a couple of days.  We couldn't swim because there were thousands of small jellyfish in the water.  And then suddenly there would be a hundred fish feeding on the jellyfish and creating a boiling action on the water with the frenzy of activity.  It was facinating to watch.  During our stay here, the winds were strong and we swung around quite a bit during the night.  But even so, we enjoyed the natural beauty of this anchorage.

Santiago Bay was a short sail and we anchored there for 2 nights.  Santiago Bay is lined with palapa cantinas serving the nearby hotels and is a popular spot for vacationing Mexicans.  It was a Mexican holiday during our stay, and the beaches were heavily populated.  We didn't even try to take the dinghy to shore because there were too many children playing in the surf, and we didn't want to run them over with our outboard motor.  Instead we lowered our kayak in the water for the first time in a long time and paddled over to the lagoon entrance.  We were told by a fellow yachtie that we could get a good cheap meal at the hotel in the lagoon.  However, in order to get into the lagoon, we had to ride a wave across the shoal.  The waves were big and we're not that experienced kayaking (except in flat water).  I didn't want to do it, but Mike badgered me until I said ok.  No guts, no glory.  We rode the wave like champs and enjoyed a nice meal.  I was a little nervous about getting back out of the lagoon, because now the waves were coming right at us.  But we timed it perfectly and paddled like hell over the swell before it broke on us.  Whew.  That was fun.

Next we sailed to Las Hadas.  So beautiful here.  This is the location where the movie "10" with Bo Derek was filmed in 1977.  It is also the location of our most stressful boat repair to date!  After setting the anchor, we heard the bilge pump working overtime.  This is an indication that water is coming into the boat.  Not good.  We immediately opened the engine room door and saw that the shaft seal was leaking ... A LOT.  Water was gushing out of the seal like a faucet turned on high.  Mike reached in and grabbed the bellows and pushed it toward the collar which stopped the water .. but only as long as he was holding it!  Mike tightened the hose clamps which gave us precious minutes of temporary relief.  Then it started leaking again.  We were back and forth to the hotel making phone calls to all the experts, getting all kinds of advice on what to do.  Put a wrench around the collar and tap it with a hammer, or loosen the set screws and pull the collar back, make sure you've got 1 inch of compression on your bellows, the bellows should be 8.5 inches after compression, wrap the shaft with masking tape forward of the collar to prevent slippage, the advice went on and on.  We had ourselves all contorted on the floor reaching into the engine compartment with arms extended to get under the generator, one of us trying to hold the wrench from the aft cabin access while the other one used the hammer from the galley access.  That darn collar was NOT going to move and the water kept coming in.  To say we were stressed out would be putting it mildly.  We were running through our options and hoping that we didn't have to pay for an emergency haul-out in Manzanillo.  Then we noticed that the little hose to the shaft seal was secured with a plastic cable tie which looked a little too snug.  We cut off the cable tie and the bellows slid into place and the leaking stopped completely.  It was a fraction of an inch, the slightest of movement.  But that darned cable tie was the problem.  The collar was in the right place the whole time, so it's a good thing all of our hammering didn't mess it up.  Holy Cow.  We needed a drink after that.

We decided to sail (motor) straight through the night and reached Zihuatanejo in 32 hours.  We had light wind on the bow and following seas.  The ocean was calm and we saw many dolphin, turtles (usually with a bird hitchhiking a ride on its back), leaping bat rays, a beautiful sunset and a fantastic sunrise.  Mike took the night watch as usual, waking Linda at 4 a.m. to relieve him.  Mike was back up after less than a 3 hour nap.  I don't know how he does it.  Anyway, here comes boat problem #2.  We were running the watermaker (installed under the bunk in the forward cabin) when Mike went to investigate a swooshing sound coming from that area.  He opened the cabinet door under the bunk and, yep, you guessed it, water squirting everywhere.  At least this time we could just shut if off until we had time to research the problem after reaching Zihua.  It turned out to be a faulty screw for which we already had a replacement part.  Replacing it wasn't easy and required us to drill a hole through the fiberglass interior wall to access the unit.  Four hours later, job was done and the cabin was back together.

We took the dinghy to the beach and enjoyed walking around Z-town again.  Stopped by Rick's Bar to say hello and have a drink, then did a little grocery shopping.   Upon returning to the boat, we needed to run the generator to recharge the batteries.  When we are at anchor, we need to run the generator for awhile in the morning and again in the evening to maintain our refrigeration system and other energy requirements.  Oh no, here comes boat problem #3.  The generator wouldn't start.  What the ...!!??  Mike started running through the troubleshooting list, checking the voltage from the battery, checking the fuses, could it be the starter solenoid?  Hope not.  Turned out to be a 40-amp starter fuse, which is fortunately interchangeable with another fuse used in the generator.  So we ordered one more thing for Kim to bring to us on Easter week, and will use the alternate fuse until then.  

So, if problems come in 3's, then WE ARE DONE!  Thank you very much.  

Sailors have told us that the definition of cruising is "fixing your boat in exotic places".  If that's true, we're still in.  We love the lifestyle and think we are up for the challenge! 

See this month's photo album.

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