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

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Melaque & Barra de Navidad

After our stop in Careyes, we decided to skip Tenacatita and hit it on our way back North.  So our next stop became Melaque (Pronounced “Meh-lah-key”).

We recognized a couple of the boats already at anchor when we pulled into Melaque, which was a nice sight since the only boats we were seeing out on the water were all heading north, so we thought we might be the only boat left down here.  Lynn and Pat from s/v Cricket, who we’d never met before but have mutual acquaintances, dinghied over soon after we set the anchor and gave us some tips on Melaque.  Mainly that we could make a dinghy beach landing right in front of a restaurant called Conch del Mar (In English: seashell) where the dinghy would be safe if we left it, but also that the restaurant has an all day 2 for 1 special on all drinks.  That sounded like the perfect spot for us!  🙂

Sure enough, we stopped at Conch each of the three days we were in Melaque for a cheap margarita ($23 pesos each or under $2 USD) or a Ceasar (like a bloody mary) or just some plain cervaza ($11 pesos each or under $1 USD).

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View from our table at Conch del Mar.  Camanoe is anchored in the background somewhere and you can see our dinghy pulled up underneath the umbrellas.

You could pretty much get whatever you needed in Melaque,  There were lots of produce stands and tiendas stocked with galley goodies.  One place called the Hawaii Store, specializes in American items that you can’t find at other Mexican stores.  I picked up a jar of pickles (seriously, why doesn’t Mexico have pickles???  They don’t know what they’re missing!) and Dave found a 2 liter of Root Beer.  We hadn’t had Root Beer since we left the states and haven’t seen it in any of the big stores like Walmart or Mega or even Costco.  I wanted to also get a jar of pesto pasta sauce, but the jar they had was pretty tiny and was about $50 pesos.  I figured we could make do with the marinara and alfredo sauces we still have on board and I put the jar back. 

One day we decided to head into Barra de Navidad on the other side of the bay.  A lot of cruisers go to Barra for the convenience of the lagoon anchorage.  Unlike Melaque, which is quite open to the sea and has the nickname “Rocky Melaque,” Barra’s lagoon has no swells or rolling and you can pay a water taxi a small fee to go into town and thus not worry about your dinghy.  But we decided we didn’t want to maneuver the boat through the shallow marine entrance for only a couple of days.  We liked the beach scene in Melaque and didn’t mind having to make beach landings to go ashore.

So to head into Barra, we made our usual beach landing in front of Conch del Mar and then started walking through Melaque, south towards Barra.  We were attempting to walk the whole way through the paved streets and avoid walking along the beach, but eventually we got to a point where we HAD to walk on the beach due to the lagoon.  It was the longest walk of my life.  We were already a couple miles in, but the last half mile was all sand.  You couldn’t walk on the packed sand near the water because the waves were breaking too high and rough, so we trudged through the loose sand with the buildings of Barra just taunting us in the distance like a mirage.

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A long beach walk…lagoon on the left, ocean on the right (left); the very blue lagoon water (right).

We eventually got to Barra and were pretty hungry and in need of a cold drink.  Unfortunately, we’re used to La Cruz where the restaurants don’t close for siesta, but apparently Barra does because NOTHING was open.  We kept walking by taco restaurants with their gates closed down with no one around.  We finally stumbled onto a little cafe near the water taxis and enjoyed some burritos (which are not at all like the burritos we Californians love, but it got the job done).  We did a little bit more walking around, found the malecon overlooking the ocean and the lagoon, but mostly weren’t too impressed with what Barra had to offer.  We were pretty tired from our trek in the sand, so we hailed a bus that said Melaque and got on for $6 pesos per person (under a $1 USD for the two of us).

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Statue along the Barra waterfront; looks to be a replica of one of the statues along the Puerto Vallarta Malacon (left); One of the Barra water taxis with sailboats anchored in the lagoon in the background (right).

But as we should already know, the bus system is never as easy as we’d like it to be.  As soon as we got over the highway passing the lagoon the bus started rounding back in the direction we came from going through residential areas.  We’d been on this type of bus before back in Puerto Vallarta and I really didn’t feel like meandering for an hour out of our way and getting deposited in the middle of no where, so we hopped off at the first chance and walked back towards Melaque.  We think the bus only goes to the outskirts of town…or maybe we just got on a special bus.  We weren’t in town long enough to figure out what we did wrong.  Thankfully, because we’d walked through the town heading towards Barra, we easily recognized where we were after a couple blocks.But, we still had a lot of walking back to the dinghy to do.  Sigh.  My butt hurt.

But in all, we did enjoy Melaque and seeing this part of the “Gold Coast.”  I probably could have done without a couple of very wet beach landings/launchings…but, I guess it’s all part of the adventure.  We also wish we could have enjoyed more of the after dark festivities, but we didn’t want to have to make a dinghy launch at night, so we missed some good restaurants and live music venues that only open for dinner.  On the other hand, we saved some money by making dinner on board…Dave’s been experimenting with the pressure cooker, so maybe I’ll have a new cruising cuisine post soon!

-SME

UPDATE 3/29/12: Oops! Forgot to tell you about the goat! We were walking through downtown Melaque the afternoon after our beach trek and here comes a random, white goat just parading down one of the main streets. There was a bus behind it, just inching along, waiting for the dang goat to get out of the way, and everyone was just going about their business like there wasn’t a GOAT meandering through town. Crazy.

Ipala, Chamela and Careyes Stops

It’s only been a few days, but the first couple of stops we’ve made after Banderas Bay have been a bit of a blur.  We hadn’t sailed in two months, so I’ve felt a bit rusty getting used to the boat heeling and the rolling swells of the Pacific.

We didn’t want to have to do an overnight sail if we didn’t have to, so we decided we’d make a stop at Punta Ipala (40 miles south) instead of making the trek to Chamela about 90 miles south.

We had a lovely, easy sail into Ipala.  Not a ton of wind, but enough to keep us moving with the jib up.  Ipala is a very small anchorage with ponga moorings and fish pens that make it even smaller.  For the first time in our travels we had a ponga driver come by and request that we donate money to his children’s school.  We felt like we couldn’t say no, but we are also are on a tight budget, so we gave a small donation and we could tell the local wasn’t too impressed with what we gave him.  Maybe it was just all in our heads, but we didn’t get a very welcoming feeling from Ipala and we were eager to take off early the next morning and head to Chamela.

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The town of Ipala with colorful fish pen buoys covering a good majority of the anchorage.

Of course, there was no easy sail for day number two.  The swells were bigger, the wind was much stronger and I was not feeling too hot from the rolling.  We got a large gust while we were talking about taking some sail down and it was too much for our windvane to take and we started to round up very fast.  Dave is quick on the sheets so we were fine, but that ended my watch up top. I went down below to nap and try to keep my breakfast down.  Dave always says he enjoys solo sailing and has a lot of fun messing with the sails and the windvane, so I try not to feel too bad about abandoning the cockpit. 

A few hours later we pulled into Bahia Chamela and anchored outside the town of Perula.  The next morning we lowered the dinghy and made a nice beach landing despite the breaking waves.  We met our neighbor from the only other boat in the anchorage, Jerry from s/v Northern Sky, on the beach and he helped us lug the dinghy up to dry sand as we had forgotten to attach our dinghy wheels.  Oops.

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We walked the beach and part of town for a little while to stretch our legs.  Dave wanted to find a pineapple, so we meandered from tienda to tienda until one of the shopkeepers opened up a box of freshly delivered pinas.  We also grabbed some jicama (my fav!) and some other odds and ends and headed back to the boat to prepare for the next morning’s sail.

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Chamela’s beachside sites.

We set off by 8am the next morning hoping to get to Tenacatita by mid-afternoon.  The wind, unfortunately had other plans.  We motored out of the Chamela anchorage and then immediately started sailing.  The wind was lighter than the morning before so I felt pretty good about hanging out in the cockpit.  But come 11am, we were in gusty winds and bigger swells than I like.  We realized we were right outside of a small anchorage called Bahia Careyes, which we had planned to bypass, but since it was right there and the weather was turning crappy, we decided to hole up there for the rest of the day.

The anchorage was even smaller than Ipala’s, but with more ponga moorings and a very rocky shoreline.  Once we finally got settled between a boat with only rope rode (boooo, they swing too much) and a good-sized power/fishing boat tied up to a mooring ball, I went downstairs to work on my taxes (yay for e-filing!) while Dave pulled out his snorkel gear. 

The first thing you notice about Careyes (besides the waves breaking over all the rocky reefs), are the colorful buildings all along the beach.  Blues, pinks, greens, oranges…so beautiful.  Pretty nice place to hide away in from the weather…

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…more stop recaps to come…

-SME

Rounding Cabo Corrientes

As of Sunday, March 18th, we officially left Banderas Bay for the Costalegre part of the Mexican coastline.

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Pretty sunrise over Yelapa as we sailed away from Banderas Bay (well, only for a couple weeks).

Considering that everyday on the La Cruz cruisers’ morning net there’s a special weather section that usually talks about the strong winds and currents running around the Corrientes cape, I figured we’d have a rough ride.  But lucky for me, I just sat back, let the jib and windvane do their thing and enjoyed reading the final Harry Potter book.

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Lighthouse that marks the Cabo Corrientes point.  Smooth seas here.

There are some beautiful, secluded beaches along this portion of the Pacific Coast, but most are either too rocky or too deep (or both) for safe anchorage.  But it’s nice to sit in the cockpit with the binoculars checking out the beaches, the colorful homes and sprawling resorts that pop up here and there along the coastline.

Also, the dolphins are entertaining…

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-SME

Yelapa Fun

After almost two months anchored in La Cruz, we FINALLY weighed anchor and headed to our next port.  It was only just across the Bay (Banderas Bay) to the small town of Yelapa, but at least it was SOMEWHERE.

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Goodbye La Cruz! We’ll see you in a couple weeks!

Yelapa is unique in that you can only get to the town by boat or an animal along the horse or donkey variety.  It’s also known for it’s great hikes ending at waterfalls.  We convinced s/vs Charisma and Dos Leos to come along for the hiking fun.  This would be our last hurrah with both boats as Charisma plans to start their puddle jump journey to the Marquesas before we return to La Cruz and Dos Leos will be heading back north to La Paz before heading back to California.  We know we’ll eventually see these wonderful people again back in Cali, but this was our last port in Mexico with people we’ve been cruising with since the HaHa last fall.

Our little trio left La Cruz mid-morning and made good time motoring across the bay and made it into Yelapa’s little alcove by early afternoon.  While you can anchor at Yelapa, it’s quite difficult to find a spot that’s shallow enough and not in the way of all the panga rental moorings, so it’s just easier to pay the 200 pesos a night and tie up to one of the moorings.  The panga drivers come out as soon as they spot you (we couldn’t even see the moorings yet when a ponga came out to greet us) and lead you to their mooring, help you tie up and then give you a ride to shore. 

We had a quick lunch and then decided that since it was only 3pm or so that we’d attempt to do the longer hike up to the bigger waterfall.  Our waiter said it was about an hour and a half hike, pointed us in the right direction and we went off on a pretty clear path through town, over a bridge and up through more town before we hit the real hiking up the mountains.  Early on we were taking photos left and right of the houses, roaming animals, rocky landscape and even broken gates (ahem…Bob on Dos Leos).  But after a good hour and a half of walking, we started getting serious about just getting to the darn waterfall and making it back before the sun started to set.

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Crossing the bridge (top left); One of the hundreds of dogs we saw along our way, just chillin’ (top right); River bed (bottom left) with one of the palapa houses along the shore (bottom right).

We got to our first river crossing probably a little over an hour into the hike and we ran into a couple coming back from the waterfall.  The man said to keep going up and we’d come to a gate.  He said we could go left and the trail would bring us down and then up to the big waterfall. Or he said we could go right and continue to smaller waterfalls that culminate in a lagoon area.  We asked how much farther and he said, maybe 15 more minutes.  Sounded correct to us, so we kept going, crossed another river and then hiked, and hiked, and hiked.  Up and up we went, and no gate.  We had passed locals with mules that you can rent to take you up to the waterfall (which, we thought we didn’t need) and so we followed the hoof prints through a third river crossing and up to where there were a couple of very small waterfalls (really just cascades) and a lot of flat rocks that looked like a nice place for a picnic.  Dave ran ahead to see if he could find this infamous gate, but it had been at least another half hour since we’d seen the couple back at the first river and getting close to 5pm.  If we had two hours of hiking back down to the town, then we needed to get going.  Dave came back and said he thought he found the gate, but couldn’t figure out where the waterfall would be from there, so we headed back, a bit disappointed that we’d gone so far and not found what we had set out for.

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Bob from s/v Dos Leos makes the leap over the first river crossing…no problems here!

On our way back down the mountain, paying more attention the trail and less on our picture taking, we came across a gate that was parallel to the trail.  It had a small green arrow on the bottom board and etched, very small, into the top board was the word “waterfall.” 

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Um, I’m sorry, the broken gate was our turnoff point???  Yeah, can’t believe we missed that! 

Feeling even more disappointed that we missed our turnoff and now didn’t have time to explore this new trail before dark, we kept heading down towards town and back to the boats.

The original plan had been to stay for one day and night in Yelapa and then in the morning take the shorter trail through the other side of town to the small waterfall (only a 20 minute walk), and then Charisma and Dos Leos would head back to La Cruz in the afternoon while Dave and I prepared for our sail around Cabo Corrientes and out of Banderas Bay.

Since we only had the mooring until noon the next day, we all decided that maybe we should spend another full day checking out Yelapa and stay another night.  We walked through more of the town and up to the small waterfall, which really was only about 20 minutes of walking, and then all of us agreed that we’d gone too far yesterday to not go back and find the darn waterfall.

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Dave at the smaller waterfall in town (left); The whole group at the smaller waterfall (courtesy of Charisma) (right).

So off we set again.  Passing through town, passing all the same dogs and horses and cattle that were there the day before, passing all the pretty stones and gates and homes and just passing everything as we marched straight ahead to that darn gate.

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This time going THROUGH the gate.

Good thing we hadn’t tried to find the waterfall after we found the gate the day before because we still had a good 45 minute hike in front of us after we went through the gate.  My feet and legs and rear end muscles were all screaming at me to stop and rest, but we just HAD to get there.  Finally (after a small detour down a trail that ended up not being a trail), we heard rushing water and after we cleared some rocks and brush we found ourselves in front of a lagoon with a very powerful waterfall coming down in the corner.  We had the place to ourselves and wasted no time jumping in and enjoying the cool water. 

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Bigger waterfall and cool lagoon (left) with Dave claiming the waterfall for Camanoe (courtesy of Charisma) (right).

So, two days, probably about 16 miles of hiking (eight miles the first day and maybe a little more than eight the second day), and two waterfalls.  Yelapa – we came, we saw, and I feel like we conquered.

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Safe travels to our buddies from Charisma and Dos Leos – we miss you already!

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Some fav shots: Bob from s/v Charisma with Deanne and Bob from s/v Dos Leos at the bonfire in Muertos back in November (top left); Bob with us on the dock in La Paz after Thanksgiving dinner (bottom left); the whole crew (minus Bob) on Charisma for a potluck and a mean game of CatchPhrase in La Cruz (bottom right).  [This trio of photos courtesy of Charisma]

-SME

Escapees Board Camanoe

This story has been sitting in the back burner of my mind for about three weeks.  Not sure why I keep failing to tell it here because I’ve already told it to all our friends here in La Cruz.  (And if Convivia is reading this – HOPE YOU DON’T MIND ME SHARING).

So, Dave and I were working on boat projects one day (like every day).  Dave was outside on deck and I was down below figuring out how to make the sewing machine work in my favor.

Dave yells down to me, “I think the Convivia kids are escaping.”

I look out the hatch and sure enough, the cute kids from s/v Convivia are in their dinghy, but the dinghy is getting farther and farther away from Convivia. 

This doesn’t seem right to me.  While their dad had recently told me he showed Ruby (7…and a half. Can’t forget the half) how to start the dinghy motor, I was pretty sure that since neither parent was on deck supervising this dinghy adventure that perhaps they weren’t supposed to have left the boat.  Plus Ruby was trying to start the outboard while it was already in gear – so they’d float while she pulled and pulled on the cord and then it would eventually kickstart and send Ruby and Miles (4) flying back into the stern.

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Have you seen these escapees?  They’re armed and very cute.

I ran back downstairs and called for Convivia on the radio. No answer and by this time the kids had floated/half-motored their way over near our boat.  I ran back up on deck and waved them down and invited them on board for a game of Uno.  Of course, this was just a ploy to get them safely tied to us and out of the water.

Miles was enjoying squirting me with his water gun filled with salt water and Ruby was excitedly talking about taking the dinghy for a ride.  Dave at that point had resumed calling Convivia and let their mom know that the kids were safe and that one of us would take them back in a bit. But for the time being, we decided to have a little fun. (Their mom later told me that she was glad for the break because she was able to vacuum the whole boat without interruption. Glad I could help!)

We played a couple games of Uno and then Ruby taught me how to play Crazy 8s before Miles started getting restless and wanted to go back home.  Ruby invited me to come back with them to color and Miles wanted me to “come shee my towys.”

So I got the kids into their lifejackets and put them into their dinghy.  I got in, and like I do with our own dinghy, cast off so we could start the motor without hitting any of our lines (we have a flopper-stopper line that could definitely foul up someone’s engine).  But, since they have a different motor than I’m used to and Ruby wasn’t able to get it started either, I soon realized we had floated quite a bit away from Camanoe and in the opposite direction of Convivia.

They have oars on their dinghy, so I just started rowing.  But unlike Camanoe’s dinghy, their oars aren’t really made for rowing in the strong current that had picked up that afternoon.  The only good part about the oars and my rowing was that at least we were treading water. Thus, NOT ending up on the rocks on the beach.

At that point both Dave and Tucker from Convivia had noticed our little problem.  Tucker couldn’t do anything but watch, but Dave jumped into our dinghy and started heading towards us.

Dave got their motor started and soon we were flying over towards Convivia.  Unfortunately, Ruby cut the engine a little too soon, so there I was again, with two small children, desperately trying to row them to safety while all their parents could do was watch.

Eventually we made it close enough to Convivia that we were able to toss them a line and secure the dinghy.  We headed downstairs where I got the royal treatment…literally.  Ruby and I played dress-up where I was the queen, complete with tiara, and she was a princess. Miles kept wanting to show me his Legos and other toys.  All three of us sat down to color and before I left I got to read them some stories in hopes of getting Miles to take a nap/have some quiet time.

It was a really nice day not spent in front of the sewing machine and I’m so glad I didn’t lose their children to the sea. 

-SME

Tacos in the Backyard Forms a Band

Have I mentioned Tacos in the Backyard yet?  (Not to be confused with Tacos in the Street.)  Tacos in the Backyard is our nickname for a little backyard taco stand called “Tacos de Lena.”  (Funnier…friends on s/v Deep Playa said they call Tacos de Lena, “Tacos in the Barnyard.”  Same difference.)

We found this little gem through friends on s/v Bella Star and s/v Ventured.  Best. Recommendation. Ever.

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“Tacos de Lena” – AKA – Tacos in the Backyard – with s/vs Bella Star, Ventured and Jace last month.

They serve tacos for 10 pesos. That’s less than a $1 USD per taco.  We each have four to five tacos, plus GRANDE beers for under $10 USD total for the two of us.  Best. Place. Ever.

We’ve been there often; at least a couple times a week since we got to La Cruz.  We’ve made friends with owner Pedro. His daughter recognizes me when we see each other out and about in La Cruz.  Small town. Gotta love it.

So we took s/v Navigo there for our last dinner out in La Cruz since they hadn’t been there yet.  It was everything we promised them and more.  The tacos were the usual yummy, cheapo goodness.  We were enjoying the evening when all of a sudden a van showed up outside the backyard fence and locals with various instruments started piling out.

“Che es esto??”, we asked Pedro.  He said something in Spanish, but we couldn’t figure out what his reply was.  The cerveza he was sipping might have had something to do with the translation problem.

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Anyway, drums, a guitar, an accordion and a tuba start to jam in the backyard.  Pedro sees how much we’re enjoying the music and tells the tuba player to go out to our table and serenade us.

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He does.

Soon there’s dancing and then the locals also eating there invite us gringos to dance with them.  I tell Camelia I’ll go if she goes. We march right up to the band and then they make us dance in the middle of their circle.  Um….we didn’t want to be the center of attention.  But it’s all in good fun. 

I ask Pedro in broken Spanglesh…”Celebration?  Um…Feliz…???”  And he says, “Si, si!  Mi amiga!” And points to a table of girls nearby.  One girl yells, “Mi cumpleanos!”  So I started singing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish, except, I know it in Italian better and kept getting “te” mixed up with “tu.”  Oops

I asked her…”Venti Uno?”  She looked about 25, but thought I’d play it safe and ask her if she was 21.  Thank God I did! She was turning 22.  Oops.

We tell Pedro goodbye, promising we’ll return in “un mes” (one month).  I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to find a better taco place. We’ll be leaving for Yelapa and towns south soon, so we figured that night was a great way to end our time in La Cruz. 

-SME

La Cruz Moments – Part Dos

As we prepare to weigh anchor and head south towards Barra de Navidad, here are a couple more La Cruz moments that we won’t be forgetting any time soon.

DOCK DRAMA:
While we do LOVE La Cruz, there was a bit of drama a couple of weeks ago when the marina here decided to impose a dinghy dock fee to those of us anchored out.  This isn’t a horrible thing; we’ve been to numerous marinas along the coast and baja and while most have been free, the occasional, and very nominal fee does pop up.  Nominal meaning somewhere between 10 and 30 pesos.

So here we are, listening to the morning cruisers’ net and the marina spokeswoman announces nonchalantly with her other daily announcements, “…and lastly, today is the start of a new dinghy dock fee. $5 (USD) in order to tie up to the dock. Thanks.”

Oh, the uproar!  At $5 USD, or 67 pesos, that’s twice the amount of the highest dinghy dock fee we’d had prior (in Cabo).  It’s also the amount we spend for one of us to have dinner at our favorite taco place (food AND large beer). In La Paz in the Sea of Cortez, the dock fee is $15 pesos daily and that includes garbage drop-off and potable water and security for our dinghies.  La Cruz wasn’t going to provide any of that with this new fee.  We were afraid we’d have to move on from La Cruz, because we couldn’t afford to pay $5 USD every time we wanted to go ashore

After much complaining and then gathering together as a group and talking with the marina owner and manager, both sides agreed to 20 pesos for a 24-hr period (including garbage drop-off).  Everyone listened to each sides’ concerns and reasoning and things seem to have settled down. 

In hindsight, Dave and I are unhappy with the way the marina treated the cruisers.  We don’t have a problem with a fee being imposed. A FAIR fee. But the way the whole thing was handled was really shady and made us feel very unwelcome.  We had considered going into the La Cruz marina for a couple of days to stock up and power up the boat, but we really don’t need to, and if we do, there are a couple of other marinas in the area that we’d rather patron first.

This hasn’t changed our opinion of La Cruz or the wonderful locals we’ve met and we’re glad that the marina’s politics haven’t affected the economy of this small town, which is what surely would have happened had the $5 fee stood.

HAPPIER MOMENTS:
OK, so onto happier memories…With other cruiser friends in town, every night can turn into a great party.  And as a cruiser…pretty much everyone is your friend.

Bob and Camelia on s/v Navigo sailed back into La Cruz a couple weeks ago. We hadn’t seen them in over a month and we were so happy to get to spend a little time catching up with them.  One of their first nights in town I joined them at Ana Banana’s – a restaurant in La Cruz that Dave and I had somehow skipped our first month in town.  They always have live music and there have been rumors of free tequila shots.  So I tried it out with Navigo on a Monday night when the band Pacific Rock Company was playing.  This band was awesome.  Someone told us the band has been playing there every Monday night for eight years.  Not sure how this is possible when the guitar player looks like he’s 15….but it doesn’t matter, because they rocked it.  We danced and sang along until midnight.

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Pacific Rock Company before the crowd hit the dance floor.  Three guys; awesome tunes.

ATTACKING TREES:
Dave and I checked out Ana’s later in the week just for dinner because it really is quite nice on their patio under all the trees.  Too bad the trees started attacking us. 

We’re sitting there enjoying the evening and our dinners when all of a sudden I feel something fall onto my forehead.  I quickly brush it away, but I accidentally brush it INTO my food.  Lo and behold, a small, but fast, centipede.  He quickly crawls to safety under my french fries. I shriek.  I practically brush all the french fries to the floor trying to get the little buggar off my plate, all the while, people at adjoining tables are looking.  I smile; situation now under control and everyone returns to their conversations.

Not even a minute later and something falls from the trees onto our table right beside both our plates.  I shriek again.  A small piece of fruit or nut from the tree above has crashed onto the table and then rolled onto the floor.

I still like Ana’s, but every time we go now, I pick a spot clear of the trees.  Now I’m just waiting for a bird to come crap on us.

 

Spotted on the Street:
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Gremlin.  Me Gusto.

 

Girls Destroy Guys in Catch Phrase Marathon:
With tequila shots on the line for the losers of each round, things were definitely tense onboard s/v Charisma the other night.  As you can tell from the photos….

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C’mon! You know, the thing, with the thing…”

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Wha…??”

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“Who’s team am I on?”

J/K guys…you were good sports…especially when Ann was dealing out your medicine.

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AND IN OTHER NEWS:

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Nice hat.

 

-SME

Zipping Over Rio Cuale

Back in February when we toured around Puerto Vallarta with s/v Charisma, we stopped for a tequila tasting (one of many) and the salesman gave us information on zip line tours.  Ann and I thought it sounded really cool and said we’d think about it.

A couple of weeks went by and we all got the La Cruz bug. This bug makes you want to lounge around all day and eat copious amounts of tacos, pico de gallo and guac.  Before we knew it, it was March!  Dave and I were planning to sail south and Charisma was flying back to the bay area for a short stint before returning to La Cruz to sail to the south pacific.  We hadn’t made any of the side trips we had talked about back in the early days of February , BUT, we decided that zip lining was still a possibility.  We talked to a local excursion host here in La Cruz and he set it up for the very next day.

At first it was just going to be a girls’ trip. But Deanne from Dos Lios decided not to come and then Dave decided he wanted in.  So the three of us set out last Saturday (March 3rd) with no idea what we were in store for.

We met our transport just outside of La Cruz in Bucerias.  It was a warm day, so we were happy that the vehicle had an air conditioning system (see pic below).  We picked up five other tourists and four locals along the way and started heading up into the Sierra Madre mountains. 

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Air conditioning at it’s best.

It didn’t take long, maybe an hour.  We headed through a tiny mountain town where no one seemed to pay us any attention (obviously they see the tours coming through all the time).  Everything kept getting greener and greener, not to mention, steeper and steeper.  Eventually we pulled up to the Canopy River grounds and one of the restaurant waiters came out to greet us with a refreshing fruit juice shot.  Nice touch.

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Canopy River is a beautiful spot. Sweeping vista views, lots of shady trees and palapas with colorful flowers all around.  I would have loved to explore the grounds more but we were hurried towards the Banos and then over to the staging area to put on our harnesses and receive our safety instructions.

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We met our tour guides, Rafael and Abraham and immediately set out for the first zip line platform.  There was no time for me to even think about how high up we must be.  They just clipped us in and shot us off.  The lines are actually so long that it was difficult to see where we would end up!

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Abraham liked to ask us, “Are you ready?” and if you said “No” he’d release you and say, “Ok, think about it out there.”  Funny Funny.

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Such a pro

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Both Ann and Dave went upside down on one of the lines while assisted by the guides.  Everyone got to try it solo later in the day when we weren’t quite so far up.

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Me going over the river on the last run.  I pulled up pretty quick because I didn’t want to get wet.

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Ann touched the water and then pulled up.  Only a little bit wet around her shoulders.

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Dave didn’t pull up at all.  Silly Capt’.

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We ended the day with mule rides back up to the start of the course and some tequila tastings.

It was an awesome experience and a great way to spend an afternoon in the PV area.  The only complaint for me was that we weren’t allowed to bring cameras on the lines, so we had to purchase their set of photos for a pretty penny.  They got some great shots though, so I can’t complain too much, but if I had to do it over I’d have brought my old point and shoot and told them that I’d take responsibility for my camera should it fall or break or get wet. 

All the photos from the trip are up on my flickr page – check ‘em out!

-SME

Puerto Vallarta Photos

Now that friends on s/v Charisma have joined us in La Cruz, we’ve had more reasons to go explore Bandares Bay.  Well, I haven’t needed reasons, but with friends along to explore it’s easier to convince the Capt to abandon his projects for a day for some tourist fun.

Charisma posted a great entry on their blog about our PV adventure…I’m feeling bummish today and will just post pics…so take a look at the story HERE and enjoy the visual story below. 🙂

All photos are also posted up on my Flickr page (see column to the right >——->——->)

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Huichol artist (pronounced Witch-hol) at the open market in downtown Puerto Vallarta.  Beautiful pieces where the artist sews each little bead one at a time to create wonderful patterns and designs.

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Lunch break: Bob from s/v Charisma with one of the quesadillas we bought from a street vendor. Came with full pieces of green onions.  So delicious, and no one wanted to sit next to us on the bus.

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Malecon statues.  Each one very unique.

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One of the churches we checked out. 

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Here’s what’s happening here; five guys climb up a tall pole so one guy can play his flute while the other four fall off the pole backwards and spin downwards until their rope unravels and drops them to the ground below.  What??

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Suspension bridges over the Rio Cuale.  More seasick here than on the boat.

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The empty bus and our bus driver.  Something got lost in translation and we ended up very far from where we wanted to be.  See Charisma’s post for the full story.

All in all…a great day exploring Puerto Vallarta!

-SME