Pittial Recap

Although we’d been in the Bandares Bay area for over three months and explored all the coastal towns, we really hadn’t checked out any of the neighboring inland towns.  While we were sailing south, friends on s/v Navigo (Bob and Camelia) were still in Bandares Bay and spent a little time checking out the little towns of Jarretaderas and Pittial.  They were excited to share their finds with us upon our return to the bay.

The Jarretaderas recap can be found here.

After our wonderful evening in Jarretaderas, I was excited to check out the next stop on Navigo’s “tour.”  They really liked Pittiall and their stories about the various shops and vendors there made it sound like an excellent place to check out.

Our usual Spanish pronunciation lesson: Pittiall is pronounced as “Pee-Tee-el.”  Or, just think of it as an acronym – P.T.L.

This trip required two busses. The usual “Directo” out of Paradise Village/Nuevo Vallarta and a jump to the “Pittiall” bus at the Walmart.  Once again, without Bob and Camelia we would have been lost, so I’d advise anyone that wanted to explore these inland towns to check with locals or long-time cruisers that know the area before jumping onto the busses.  Even now, I know I’d be able to find the correct busses, but not sure if I’d remember the correct stop in Pittiall (although, if you can speak enough Spanish to ask the bus driver, they usually remember to let you off at the correct stop. OR sometimes other bus riders will jump in and help you).

Turns out, the night we headed into Pittiall, there was a large political rally being staged in the town square.  The place was buzzing with traffic, mobs of people and the night air filled alternatively with loud music or cheering.  We had second thoughts of staying since we’d all been warned at some point about avoiding political protests and/or rallies as a tourist.  But, there wasn’t any sense of unrest in the crowd, mostly it just looked like families out and about and there happened to be some guy in a suit giving a speech.  So we skirted around the square and headed for the taco restaurant Navigo wanted to go to for dinner.

Another great gem.  Honestly, you don’t need a restaurant with a lot of choices – just a place that does a couple of dishes really well.  At this place it was the standard tacos or quesadillas filled with either beef, chicken or pork and your choice of either beer or soda.  However, this was one of the only places we’ve been to with an option of El Pastor.  El Pastor is shaved pork.  In fact, it’s a big hunk of pork usually hanging above a taco stand grill and you an watch them shave your pork off and right onto your taco.  It is delicious and I always order it if I see it on the menu.

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YUM! El Pastor!

After filling up on tacos, we walked to the churros cart that was sitting on the street right outside the restaurant.  How can you resist blobs of fried dough covered in sugar????  Unlike in the states where you get one long strip of dough, here in Mexico they give you a little baggie with six or so small strips.  They’re so crunchy and awesome.  You know they’re going to be good when all the locals are lined up waiting for a fresh baggie.

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YUM! Churros! (I’m sensing a pattern to this post…)

Next door was a small shop that Navigo pointed out as the local spice shop.  If only we’d known weeks ago!  Sure you can get most spices and herbs from the larger supermarkets, but there are some spices you can’t find, like curry powder.  This store has it.  It has everything. And nuts, dried fruits and candy on top of that.  Dave and I were recently given curry powder from a friend willing to share their stash, so we really didn’t need anything, but Dave couldn’t resist getting a couple of kilos of dried fruit.

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YUM! Spices…wait…um…Dried Fruit for Dave!

We really didn’t have anything in particular we wanted to do after the spice store, so we just walked around a bit.  I checked out the church on one side of the plaza with it’s very unique statue of Christ suspended from the ceiling.  The four of us poked our heads into the various clothes and zapato (shoe) stores.  At one point the boys walked over to the florist shop and both returned with a rose for us girls.  I guess they do like us!

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Exterior of Pittiall’s church (L) and the large, suspended Christ statue over the altar (R).

At some point the political rally portion of the evening ended and was replaced by people just milling about and partaking in the yummy treats being sold along the far side of the plaza.  Our favorites were the crepa lady with her decadent, chocolaty, sweet crepes and the fresa vendor with fresh strawberries covered in crema de leche and azucar (cream and sugar).  I was beginning to feel like a weeble wobble doll after all of the evening’s treats!  Somehow we waddled back to the bus stop and headed back towards Paradise.  During the first bus ride out of Pittiall, a local man asked Bob how we found out about Pittiall.  He explained that we’ve been living in the area for a few months and had some other friends that had showed them around.  The man said he was impressed that us gringos would venture out of the tourist area. 

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YUM! Crepas!

Honestly, some of my favorite moments on this adventure has been venturing out of the tourist areas.  I might have enjoyed walking down the Puerto Vallarta malecon in the heart of gringo land, but I’d much rather wander the streets of a small town like La Cruz or Jarretaderas or Pittiall.  It’s so much more interesting and gives you a local view of life in Mexico. 

Now, excuse me while I go take a walk. It’s been over a couple of weeks since we were in Pittiall and I’m still trying to burn off all those calories we ate!  LOL

-SME

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Santiago Bay Tiangui

I was excited to see in our guidebook that the weekly Tiangui (or flea market) that comes to the small town of Santiago was going to be on Saturday when we’d still be in town.

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Lagoon Juluapan entrance from Santiago Bay.  Camanoe is anchored in the background.

We’ve missed a couple of these kinds of markets while on our sail south.  Not that we really need to buy anything, but they’re a lot of fun to visit and spend a day wandering around with the locals.  Usually there are good tacos or bebidas (drinks) to try and lots and lots of randomness to photograph.

We’re anchored in Playa la Boquita on the opposite side of Santiago Bay from the town of Santiago proper.  The day before the market we thought we’d check out the town and get our bearings. We wandered down the curving, dusty road that snakes behind the beach and through the gringo vacation home area.  It was probably almost two miles of walking up to the highway where we could catch a bus into Santiago.  We hopped on the first bus that said Santiago – it was route #3.  We ran into a vacationing Canadian couple later in the day at a restaurant that recognized us and said they saw us boarding the bus and realized too late that they should have told us to wait for route #1, which is much more direct.  But where’s the fun in not getting lost EVERY TIME we get on the dang bus..??!?  Sigh.  Anyway, route #3 DID get us to Santiago and the bus driver stopped at the town square and made sure we got off since this is where we’d asked to be let off.  Route #3 takes you up and around a mountain and then down into Santiago while Route #1 just follows the main highway that runs along the beach.  It’s about a 20 minute difference.  Doh.

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Dusty road was not the best option.

Our other mistake that day was the walk on that dusty, windy road.  We were trying to avoid walking the beachline as we had done in Melaque trying to get to Barra de Navidad.  We’d had such a hard walk on that beach that I think we were a little intimated to try to do a similar walk in Santiago.  But fellow cruisers, David and Roz on s/v Barefoot, told us that the beach was an easy walk, with really compact sand. After about 20 minutes you come to a large, white staircase that leads you directly up to the highway and the buses.  Totally cut down on almost an hour of walking!  We really need to ask more people for their suggestions before we start exploring!

Anyway, Saturday morning we were all prepared for a shorter beach walk and a faster bus ride to the flea market. (I’m going to note here, since no other blogs or mentions of the Tiangui online or in the guidebooks tell you the hours of the market.  It runs from 9am to 6pm.)

Size-wise, this market is the biggest one I’ve seen.  Quality-wise, it’s not great, but it is entertaining.  A lot of the clothing vendors are just Goodwill or Salvation army clothes. Some people look like they’ve just rummaged through their garages or sheds and brought out whatever crap they want to get rid of.  But some of the Mexican crafts, pottery, ceramics, rugs, tablecloths, jewelry, etc, were very nice and I liked looking at the various items.  I picked up some necklaces and even Dave picked up some souvenirs.  I still haven’t been able to find a Mexican tablecloth that I like enough to purchase or that is at a reasonable price.  There was one in Barra de Navidad that I probably should have bought; it had most of the colors I want (brighter the better!) and was only 120 pesos.  The tablecloth vendors at the Santiago Tiangui were all asking 300 pesos or more and wouldn’t barter lower.  Total rip-off.  I’m going to have to check out one of the Puerto Vallarta markets again when we get back to Banderas Bay.

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Plastic toys galore…

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Locals trying to find a bargain on clothes…

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Easter dresses?

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The largest bowl of pico de gallo I’ve ever seen.

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Dave’s new sunglasses. Spiffy.  Hope these don’t go overboard like the others…

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Pregnant Barbie dolls…??????????

We ran back into s/v Barefoot while we were eating some yummy burritos and they recommended that we check out one of the carnecerias up the street.  Up till now, Dave and I have avoided purchasing meat from the meat markets.  We look and ponder and then end up going to one of the regular grocery stores to purchase any meat.  I’m the same way back home; I don’t know what to tell the butcher, so how am I supposed to do it with a language barrier??  But we’ve both been craving ribs.  We found ribs back in Mazatlan at Sam’s Club, but since then, we haven’t recognized beef or pork ribs at any of the markets we go to.  We thought we’d check out the carneceria and if they had ribs then we’d bite the bullet and go for it.

Dave had to use a little gesturing on his body in order to get across that we wanted ribs, but the butcher understood, pointed at a slab of beef hanging from the ceiling and said it was 70 pesos a kilo.  DONE.  Dave asked for two kilos, which I thought was a bit much, but it gave us two, good-sized racks of ribs, so two dinners worth at about $12 USD.  Nice.

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Carneceria (top) and dinner on the scale (bottom).

We pressure cooked the ribs, along with some fresh corn on the cob that we grabbed at the produce market next to the carneceria, some rice and the last of Dave’s pressure cooker bread.  This type of cruising isn’t doing anything for my waistline.  LOL

We’ll head out tomorrow for Ensenada Carrizal just five miles north and then probably up to Tenacatita a day or two after that.  Looking forward to it!

-SME

Manzanillo (aka: our southern most stop)

I think one of my regrets for traveling in and around the Baja/Sea of Cortez area of Mexico was that we didn’t go to that many places.  Sure we hit as much of the La Paz islands as we could, but there were so many stops farther north that we just didn’t make time for and the weather was getting too cold. We took advantage of winds heading south and across to the mainland and sometimes that’s what you have to do when you’re mainly dependant on weather.

What I’m getting at, is that we have these Mexico cruising guidebooks by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer (pretty much every cruising couple owns these books and when I’ve referred to our “guidebook” it’s the one I’m talking about).  We bought one for the Sea of Cortez and only utilized three out of the 14 chapters.  There’s  A LOT to see in that area.  Bummer we couldn’t see more. 

However, I am happy to report that as of Manzanillo, our most southern stop on this adventure, that we have now utilized four out of seven chapters of the Pacific Mexico cruising guide.  I know that still doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s more than half of the book…and two of the remaining chapters are super short.

But onto the sailing…we had another smooth sail, although, upwind, into Manzanillo.  There was a bit of confusion on my part as to which anchorage we were pulling into.  The chart plotter is so off at this point that it showed that we were past the point (Punta Santiago) that we needed to be around before heading towards land and into the anchorage for Las Hadas (Manzanillo).  But we weren’t past it, not even close, so I thought the bay just around the corner from Las Hadas, called Santiago Bay, was where we needed to go.  Dave and I had a quick debate and figured out that we still had a couple miles to go based on the guidebook’s anchorage waypoints (lat. and long. coordinates).

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Fun with maps…click for larger photo and to see captions

We were able to use the wind and the current to sail right into the Las Hadas anchorage with just the mainsail up.  Dave gets very excited about these things while I sit in the cockpit and try to wrap my mind around how we’re going to stop the dang boat to anchor while the sail is up. (Hey, I only took ONE sailing course).  Apparently, just heading into the wind will suffice and we anchored without much issue.

You can’t beat the view from this anchorage. The water is super calm since you’re protected from the wind and swells (except for the occasional, annoying jet skier) and the beautiful Las Hadas resort lines the beach.  For 200 pesos per dinghy you can use the marina/resort’s dock to tie up and use the hotel’s services; mainly the pool, but still a decent deal if you want to hang out all day. 

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View of Las Hadas from the cockpit.

We liked the pool, but it was a bit chilly for swimming and the restaurants have ridiculous prices (aka – American prices), so we stayed for a couple hours and then headed back to the boat for lunch.  But since the day pass is good for 24 hours, we headed back to shore to get our moneys worth.  We wandered around the grounds and got our bearings as to where the bus stops were for heading into central Manzanillo, we found a calm beach down the way where we could tie the dinghy up safely and for free, and a restaurant with a good happy hour and free WiFi (which, for a couple of drinks we got the WiFi code and were able to pick up the signal from the anchorage for the rest of our time in Manzanillo – SCORE!).
 

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Las Hadas Resort pool, spiral tower and views of the marina and anchorage.

Heading into Central Manzanillo was fairly simple.  We hopped on the only bus that stops through the Las Hadas area for 6 pesos per person. That bus stops at Soriana, a large supermarket/Target-like store; from there you hop on the next bus that arrives that says “Centro” in the window (for another 6 pesos).  There are multiple lines that run into the Centro area and we just got off when we saw the main Manzanillo harbor with all the large tankers and fishing boats.  From here we quickly recognized the large, blue sailfish statue that was listed in the guidebooks as a must-see.  From there we just roamed the streets looking for a good place for a little breakfast and seeing what Manzanillo had to offer.

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Sailfish statue (top), streets of Manzanillo (bottom left), and the 5 de Mayo marketplace (bottom right).

It reminded me a lot of Mazatlan; the hustle and bustle of all the people, the traffic, the large markets, the busy harbor, etc.  There wasn’t very much to actually see or do, so after breakfast and stopping through the large 5 de Mayo market, we wandered back to the harbor and went into Bar Social, a bar also listed in the guidebooks as a must-see.  It was a quiet, dimly lit, old saloon.  It has a big, round bar, a dozen or so blue booths, and looks like the type of place where you can equally have a good time or drown away your sorrows.  There was only one other couple inside, so Dave and I took a couple stools on the far side of the bar and ordered Caesars (like a Bloody Mary but with Clamato Juice instead of tomato juice) and played some super competitive Rummy.  We were surprised that with your drinks you’re given complimentary tapas (called botanas).  We had a nice little spread of chips, homemade salsa, guacamole, beans and a plate of jicama and cucumbers.  Who needs lunch?!  We didn’t even mind too much when we asked for two Cokes after awhile and the bartender mistakenly gave us two more Caesars.  Oh well, just eat more…

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Bar Social (left) and our spread of botanas with Caesar drinks.

On our way back to the boat we stopped to walk through the Soriana to grab a few items and passed the Manzanillo cinepolis (movie theatre).  We were curious to know how much a movie ticket costs in Mexico. At least in Manzanillo it’s only 35 pesos (about $2 USD).  Granted, most of the movies are American with either Spanish dubbing or subtitles, but that’s pretty amazing to only have to spend $2 for a movie.  The teenager behind the ticket counter asked what it was in the United States and Dave said ten, but I said it’s probably more like $12 now.  Oy.

I’m very happy that we made it as far south as Manzanillo – it was a good last southern stop.

-SME

The Snuffelopogus Situation

 

As much as we love La Cruz, there is a slight problem with sitting in the anchorage for more than a couple of days.  You see, the anchorage has a fur problem.  It comes out of nowhere and gloms onto any surface beneath the water line.  The boat, the anchor chain, the propeller…

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What is this you ask?

 

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It’s the underside of our dinghy. 

Yuck.

-SME

Marley

This is Marley:

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Marley resides at the little beach where Pizza Benji’s is located.  He roams around all day, greeting the cruisers who land their dinghies on the calm beach, hikes up Isla los Chivos to bark at the infamous Mazatlan goats, chases the field chickens and rooster that surround Benji’s (never catches, just chases) and basically acts as mayor of this small cove.  Marley has a good life.

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View from Pizzas Benji’s.  The small beach is where all the cruisers leave their dinghies and Nic from Benji’s “watches” them.

The first time we met Marley, we thought it was pretty cool that he went on a walk with us.  He didn’t follow us, he just sort of led the way, like “here’s the water taxi stop….and up here is the other beach…oh and here’s a truck that shouldn’t be on my road…BARK BARK BARK!”

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Walking on Marley’s road.

We asked Nic from Benji’s what Marley’s story was.  From what we could make out in our Spanglish, Marley was a pup of an American dog that came to Mazatlan. Marley was left behind.  He stayed on his little beach until one day when a cruising couple fell for Marley and brought him back to their boat. After one day of Marley, they returned him to Benji’s.  Marley is a free spirit. We can’t imagine anyone being able to own him.

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Sunset with Marley in the lead.

We noticed on our walks with Marley that he would bark a lot at the locals.  Friends on s/v Deep Playa told us that they asked Nic and he said that Marley only likes Gringos.

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It’s probably because we give him coconuts.

Good dog Marley, good dog.

Mazatlan – Life on the Hook

After our fun New Years Eve anchored out at Deer Island, we pulled anchor and headed over to the old harbor and anchored at Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra).

This anchorage is much closer to Old Mazatlan, so it’s easier to get to the heart of Mazatlan and be around the locals than from the marina area we were docked in.  Leaving the boat, however, is always a process.  First we have to pack the backpacks with whatever we may need during the day, then load up into the dinghy and row to shore.  We land the dinghy at Pizzas Benji’s in a small, calm cove and then haul the dinghy a good twenty yards up the beach to be sure it won’t get swept away if the tide comes up.  For frequenting Benji’s, the waiter there will take our trash and “watch” our dinghy all day (I say “watch” because we’re not sure there’s much worry of anyone taking the dinghy, especially since we don’t put the engine on it if we can help it.  But it’s still nice to know someone knows who the dinghy belongs to). Benji’s will even arrange for you to get fresh water or ice if you need it.  It’s a great stop for cruisers.

From the beach landing we walk about a kilometer to the water taxi that will take you for 25 pesos each way from Stone Island across the shipping channel to the main side of Mazatlan. Poncho the ponga driver would help us practice our Spanish.  I’ve been working on my Rosetta Stone, so I was having fun saying thinks like, “We walk a lot today!” and “We walked to the lighthouse!” And Poncho would tell us things like his name and his age and that the water taxi stops running at 6pm (“Seis! No Mas!”).  (Cruiser Tip: Pay for the taxi at the yellow embarcadero building – not directly to the ponga driver)

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Water taxi stop from the playa side.

From the water taxi we walk about a mile into downtown to the Municipal Market (Mercado Central) or the Machado Plaza or wherever else we feel like going for the day.

Although it’s a long walk and a long day to go to the market and stock up on whatever we need, we felt like it was worth it to be able to see the sights and be around the locals.  We ate at a counter in the market one day and then happened upon one of the freshest and cheapest fruit stands.  We frequented this fruit stand every time we went into town and the proprietor (we never got his name) was always so happy to see us.  I’d ask “Que es esto??” and point to fruits and veggies I didn’t recognize and he’d tell me how to serve them.  He even threw in a bunch of peppers and tomatillos and instructions on how to prepare them the last time we came by and told me they were free for us.  In all, we usually came away from this stand with two backpacks full of fresh produce for the low price of $10 USD.

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The produce man in Mercado Central (L), our fresh loot (center) and our produce bill – $132 pesos, or about $10 USD (R). The most expensive item? Apples.  Because they’re shipped down from the U.S.!  The cheapest item – a head of of garlic (Ajo) for 5 pesos, or $0.38 USD.

After walking all day, we’ll head back to the water taxi, walk down the road and stop at Benji’s for a large pizza or a coconut.  They won’t except money for watching the dinghy, so we always felt like we needed to have at least a drink there before rowing home.

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Benji’s shrimper pizza (garlic, shrimp and ham) and Dave with a grande coco.

Once we’re back on the boat, we unload all the fresh produce or anything else we’ve got that day and take it out of any packaging and give a bleach/water dunk to kill off any possible roach eggs. Better safe than sorry!  We make sure any bags or cardboard boxes stay in the dinghy until we go ashore the next day and give to Nic to put in Benji’s dumpster. 

It’s always a long day, but also very satisfying.  It’s an adventure every day.

Cruiser Tips: Cabo

Not sure if anyone reading is considering a cruising lifestyle, but thought I’d give our two cents regarding tips for the various places we visit.  First edition is for Cabo San Lucus.

1) Get out of Cabo:  Everyone makes this joke, but it’s true. Cruising isn’t really cruising in Cabo.  We’re not big partiers, so Squid Row wasn’t a draw for us, but some of the cruisers in the Ha-Ha liked to have a night of partying and then they hit the seas again for real cruising.  You can’t even really restock your boat here.  So get a taco, have a margarita and get out of dodge.

2) Marina: We stayed one night at the marina for the Ha-Ha rate of $65 USD.  Not sure what the normal rates are, but assume you’re going to pay upwards of $100 for one night.  They say they have internet but it’s practically impossible to actually access their signal. But this is everywhere in Cabo.  All the connections are slow.

There was a laundry room across from where we stay in Dock K.  The two washers and two dryers take quarters ($1.25 USD for a wash, $1.50 USD for the dryer).  The “Original Store” next to the laundry is able to exchange your dollars (USD or Pesos) for quarters.

3) Anchoring: Tie up and lock up everything. Anything you would really be bummed to have go missing should go down below and locked up if you leave your boat,  It’s highly possible that because we were a part of the Ha-Ha crew that everyone with the green Ha-Ha flags were big, red targets; it is also a possibility that the two dinghies that went “missing” during the evening we were all ashore celebrating the end of the Ha-Ha were just tied improperly, BUT, there’s no mistaking that one of the Ha-Ha boats hatches was broken (although, luckily, not broken into) while we were at the awards show.  What I’m trying to say, is that you’ll probably be fine in the anchorage as long as you are smart about your belongings and aware of your surroundings.  Really, just like anywhere else.

We were told by a handful of other cruisers that they were charged a fee for anchoring.  It varied between $15 and $20 USD.  We seemed to have missed the fee charging boats (still not sure if this is the marina or the port captain or some other agency invoking the fee).  The dinghy dock on the other hand (near the main marina office alongside the launch ramp) is $3 USD a day to tie up.  The dock attendant is usually there, but there were times that we showed up and he wasn’t there; in fact, one time we were able to tie up, run a quick errand and get back to our dinghy before the attendant came back so we skirted the fee.  Small pleasures in this expensive town.

Lastly about the anchorage – rolly, rolly, rolly.  Between the pongas and the jet skis you won’t get a moment’s rest during the daylight hours.  The anchorage is fairly open and rolly enough on it’s own, but those damn jet skis. We loathe jet skis.  The cruise ships sit just outside the anchorage, so they block some of the swells, but it’s still pretty uncomfortable.  Also, the boom, boom, boom from the night clubs along the beach will keep you up all night, so invest in some earplugs.

4) Provisions:  Again, not the best place to be restocking your boat, but we did find a super market near the dinghy dock (go up to the main road and turn left.  You’ll see the neon sign and parking lot behind the tourist info booth).  They cater to US tourists and the prices reflect that, but we were able to get some fresh produce, some great, fresh salsa, tortillas and chips. Basically, we live off of the tortillas, so we grabbed a ton. 

5) Internet:  We liked the Cabo Coffee Company (Next to the Town Plaza).  Just buy one of their decently priced drinks/snacks/ice cream and you can sit there all day and surf the internet.  They actually had a really fast connection and download speed, but trying to upload photos was a nightmare.  I eventually got everything posted that I wanted, but it took a good five hours.  It’s a comfy spot, but not that comfy.