Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going it Alone (with friends)

Bue Footed Boobies on Isla Isabella
As we prepared to leave Mazatlán it occured to us that this would be our first passage really alone.  On the Baja we had 140 other boats around, and when we crossed the Sea of Cortez Jim was still with us.  This would be our first independent passage and we were really looking forward to it.  As it turned out, our friends Ken and Carol of Nautimoments buddied with us and that was great.  It is always nice to know someone is out there with you if there is a problem.  We planned our departure for a full moon and calm seas and had a great overnight run to Isla Isabella.  As it turned out another boat underway that same night did have a big problem, We and Nautimoments were able to offer them some oil and water but they had a long slow sail to La Cruz without a motor and with a contaminated water tank.  Here's to buddy boating!

 Isabella is famous for the Blue Footed Boobie and Frigate Birds and is also known as a difficult anchorage.  About 1/2 the time cruisers have to go right on by as the sea state will not allow for a safe or comfortable anchorage.  We got lucky!  Conditions were perfect, the waters around the island were calm as a pond.  We anchored in the lee of one of the pinacles in crystal clear water filled with beautiful fish.
We swam in the morning and hiked ashore for the rest of the day enjoying the amzaing birds.  We saw Bue Footed Boobies sitting on blue eggs in the sea grass, it was so cool!  We also saw some Frigate chicks in their nests.  Jeff and I had just watched Jurassic Park and were a little bit freaked out by this Island.  Later in the day we were entertained with whales jumping out of the water outside of the bay.  Just amazing.

Buena Vida on the lee side of the pinacle.  Que Bonita!

Temporary huts for the fishermen.

The next morning we left early for Matanchen Bay (3 miles south of San Blas).  The beach is lined with beautiful palapas which make a  great place to hang out at but we made the mistake of eating a little too late.  We went ashore and left our boat at a Palapa as the owner was very excited to have a costumer and vowed to watch our dinghy.  We went for a leisurely walk then returned around 5:00 pm for dinner.  Well, when you order it takes about 30-40 minutes before your food comes as everything is home made, even the tortillas.  By the time the food came it was pitch black!  We did not realise that these palapas have no electricity.
The owner brought us some candles (very romantic) and burned coconut husks to keep the jejenays away (no-see-ums).  Another valuable lesson learned.  Eat a late lunch and get back to the boat before dark.  Everything is easier that way!

Matanchen Bay Palapa

The famous Jungle Cruise

Mexicans tend to be very devout, we prayed that we did not get eaten by el crocodillo.

Look at those teeth!

We had a great time playing on the swing and swimming in the protected area of the river.
San Blas is a sleepy fishing town, bigger then a village but not quite a city.  Life seems really simple and sweet here.  It feels like going back in time about 100 years.  The boy below is delivering meat to the Mercado.  Vegetables anyone?

Fresh Meat Delivery
Fresh Fish Delivery
Nap time as mom works in the tienda.

The Huichol are indigenous people living high in the Sierra Madres, down to sell beautiful bead work.

After a long day it is nice to relax at a palapa with our friends Ken and Carol of NautiMoments

Sailing or  motoring requires full attention in these waters as there are fishing long lines everywhere.  The Mexican Fisherman mark them with empty plastic soft drink bottles, usually clear but if you are lucky they will use that bright green from a citrus soft drink.  At the end of each line is usually a black flag.  On our way from Isabella to Matanchen out of nowhere a panga came speeding right at our hull.  Jeff was below shaving and I was at the helm.  I am sad to say that my first thought was that we were in danger and totally unprepared.  The Bear Spray and extra flair gun are  in our cabin tucked away.  I keep waiting to put it out for a time when I actually feel like we might be an a dangerous situation.  Everyone has been great here and we usually safer here then we do downtown Ventura on a Saturday night!  Anyway, I yelled for Jeff and avoided collision with the panga with a hard turn to port.  Of coarse we have both sails flying!  I soon understood the two words the panga driver knew in English, "follow me".  He had got to us in the nick of time as we almost went through his long line.  He led us around the line and we threw him a couple of cold cokes.  All was well with all parties involved but I felt sad that my first thought was that this fisherman meant us harm.  

We were the first of 3-4 boats to leave Matanchen in route for Chacala we had the main up as every time we would see anything that could be a float we would put the boat in neutral and drift on by hoping nothing caught on our prop.  Our friends behind us unfortunately got hooked on a long line. They were able to use a boat hook to bring it up on each side of their boat, cut it and tie it back together.  It is tempting to just cut the line and leave it but then lots of fish will die needlessly as the line drifts free.  And a tough way to treat the fisherman trying to make a living.

Chacala was our next anchorage and our favorite so far.  Chacala is a small bay with a tiny village.  Beautiful  vacation homes line the ridge of the bay partially hidden by palms and lush greenery.  A quarter of the beach is lined with palapa restaurants and the rest is just open empty beaches.

We have come to terms with the fact that we will not need our beach chairs or umbrella until we get to the Sea of Cortez this spring.  Every beach here has at least one palapa that is happy for you to use there hamock, table, chairs and what ever as long as you eat something.  It is common for the Mexicans to show up to these palapas with an ice chest full of beer and bags of food.  It is the  craziest thing I have ever seen.  Then other vendors walk through the palapa selling homemade pies, muffins, coconut candy, baked plantain, etc.   No one seems to mind at all.

Chacala.  The rest of the  beach is empty and gorgeous!

Downtown Chacala.  

Boy in canoe putting out his long line.  

Hiking to the volcanic crater south of Chacala with Keith and Olia of Anun.

The Crater, a lush tapestry of green (swamp).

   My first Coconut drink.  We love all of the fresh food here.
   Life is simple and most people don't have much but they eat
   quite well on fresh fish, fruit, veggies and home made 

Buena Vida at Sunset from a palapa.

We met some great people on two other boats (Anon and Tug Tub) in Matanchen and had them to our boat for dinner one night.  We all came to Chacala together and the girls would all go ashore for Yoga each morning.  I mentioned that I could use a massage and Pam got right on it.  Pam and Paul hired a local massage therapist to come to the boat and give us all chair massages.  They topped that by putting their floating HOT TUB, yes that is right, a hot tub, in the water for us all to give a try!  I could not believe my eyes.  What a fun night. 
We are really roughing it out here in the wilds of Mexico!

Crew of Anon and Terra Bella soaking in the Hot Tub

Sunset neck massage for Julie.

Life is good.

Chacala became a bit rolley so we all weighed anchor and off we went to La Cruz.  Most of the cruisers that we have met came to La Cruz for Christmas so it is nice to spend the holiday season with these new friends.  La Cruz has a nice marina and a quiet little town with some cool restaraunts.  The famous Philo's bar is here and there is always great music to be heard.  

We really missed our family at Christmas, Next year I think we will come home for the Holidays.  Mexico is great but nothing replaces your family.  Ever.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Mazatlán Vortex  11.8.11 to 12.11.11
We arrived in Mazatlán on November 8th late in the afternoon.  The trip over from Cabo was the only unpleasant passage we have had so far.  Sea’s and wind on the port beam made for a more then uncomfortable ride crossing the Sea of Cortez.  When we got close to the harbor entrance in Mazatlan after 33 hours and called to let them know we were looking for a slip the El Cid marina told us not to come, the harbor entrance was closed due to high sea’s.  How disappointing.  One more hour of  traveling south to the commercial harbor and it would all be over.
We actually spent two nights in the commercial harbor anchored with the fishing fleet as the seas took their time settling down.
When we finally arrived in El Cid we were rewarded with a lovely resort/marina complete with two pools, hot tub, poolside cafes and great people.

Comercial Harbor in the industrial part of Mazatlán

Yachtistas can anchor here for free and there is a dinghy dock.

Ahhh... The beautiful El Cid
My favorite pool, I loved the slide and tunnel to the private pool on the other side.

After a few days of R&R we fell into the rythem of Mazatlán life.  Jeff and I signed up for a month of Spanish lessons with a lovely Mexican women.  She and her American husband live downtown near the Centro Mecado.  Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday Jeff and I would take the bus to their home.  We each had a private lesson after which we would go have lunch then off to the Mercado to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies from our favorite fruiteria, carrot cake from our favorite pastelleria, tortillas y salsa, dried marlin and what ever else our arms could carry home.
Tuesdays and Thursdays we would do homework in the morning then I would take a long walk on the stunning beach.  Often as I looked out at the ocean I would see fish jumping right out of water, the sea life is so rich here.  After lunch we would head to the pool for an hour or two of water volleyball.  If we did not get together with some other boaters for dinner we would head to the Plazuela Muchado for a stroll and dinner.  Every time we went downtown there were  several bands  playing in different plazuelas.  Mazatlán is a city that loves music and a party.

Plazuela Muchado.  Thur - Sat all the restaurants have open air dining and  music,
lots of people stroll and visit here.

Dinner Party on the Buena Vida
Playa Bruja (Witches Beach)    Spent lots of time laying around the beach here.
We loved that they would give you a table, chairs and umbrella for the day if you ordered
something to eat.
before lunch at a beach side palapa.

We went to a parade along the 10 kilometer Malacon for the Dia de Revolutión and were so happy that we did, the sight was just amazing.  Lots of families, seniors, teenagers etc. lined both sides of the Malacon as a huge parade passed by.  Lots of drums.
Every school, club, sports team, volunteer organization, fire dept etc. had an entry.  It was great.  After the parade we went to Plazuela Zaragoza for a food festival sponsored by the Rotary Club of Mazatlán.  We struck up an conversation with a couple from Canada who had recently purchased a house in downtown.  They invited us over to see there house and go out to lunch later that week.  It was such a friendly feeling but not unusual for Mazatlán, people are super friendly here- Mexicans and expats.

Along the Malacon

The shrimp boats ashore along the old part of the Malacon
  Well, we planned on 4-5 days in Mazatlan but stayed 5 weeks!  We enjoyed Mazatlan much more than we expected.  The standard of living is quite high here.  We felt more like home then not.  The grocery stores were bigger than Von’s and super clean.  Lot’s of cultural activities, stunning beaches and really nice people.  I am sad to say that I have become a bit suspicious of strangers with all the reports of violence and robberies.  I let my guard down when I realized that usually if a Mexican approached and said hello he or she just wanted to practice their English and be friendly or...sell a timeshare!

Children preforming at the Dia de Revolution food festival

Jeff's first  Birthday Dinner in Mazatlán

These old neighborhoods are so charming but they are disappearing as lots of
Canadian and Americans are buying these properties and renovating them.
Downtown Mazatlán has a very European feel.

School Children going to see a performance at the Angela Peralta Theater

Horti, our Spanish teacher spent a day giving us a historical tour of  Mazatlan.

Jeff's second Birthday Dinner

The weekend before our departure from Mazatlán our Spanish teacher invited us her home for a dinner party.  I asked if I could help cook to learn some recipes.  What a great day, it felt like Thanksgiving to me.  We spent the day in the kitchen cooking Pescado de Limón, Pollo Pimiento, Chilis en Nogado, Chilis Rellenos and of course, flan.  What a treat to spend a day talking in Spanish and cooking.  Jeff and two other couples arrived later and we had a wonderful evening.  Thank you so much Horti and Carlitos. 
Horti preparing a lovely dinner for us and some other friends.

A birthday surprise!

This view is amazing when partnered with a mojito.

Saying good bye to new friends is a bitter sweet part of our new lifestyle.  We love the anticipation of discovering a new place but it is hard to say good bye.  Also, I must say that I am a bit home sick as the holidays near and I miss my family and friends.
But all in all, we wake up everyday happy and thankful for the experiences that we are having.
We will spend Christmas eve with some fellow boaters for a party then mid night mass at the church.  Christmas day we have been invited to a traditional Christmas dinner potluck with about 10 other boats.
We appreciate so much the new friends that we have made but like I said, we really do miss our family and friends from home especially at Christmas.  

Feliz Navidad a nuestro familia y amigos.