April 25- May 15, 2002: Leaving Mazatlan, Cruising South Along the Gold Coast and Arrival Into Puerto Vallarta
Anchorage at Chacala
We are winding down our stay in Mazatlan and now in our last week in town. We’ve really come to love Mazatlan --so very different from both Cabo and La Paz. It has a lot of the "old Mexico" tranquility of La Paz, with the great eateries and bars and shops like Cabo (only not nearly as expensive), but in addition, has the gorgeous beaches and the tropical plants, flowers and lushness of Hawaii. It has been so nice here — so far our favorite destination–and we hate to leave, but ahead we have more places to see and more adventures to experience. We will be leaving here in about 6 days so we are also leaving our "vacation mode" and getting in our "get ready to go" mode. I have menus to plan and provisioning to do and Joe has his engine maintenance things to ready up, plus everything that we have gotten out in the last month has to be put away or "battened down" and secured for the possibilities of an “anything-can-happen” passage at sea.
Each place we’ve been, we’ve been hiring locals to do a few boat projects for us… I naively thought that everything major that needed to be done, was done before we left San Diego… not so. We’ve been having more canvas cover projects done (such as a custom cover for our dinghy, covers for our on-deck fuel tanks, more bags to hold our lines, etc.), as as it gets hotter and hotter, we see how quickly things on the boat deteriorate. This week, we've had a couple of local “boat boys” doing some woodworking on the boat... some varnishing (very little) and applying a new coat of Cetol (special stain) over the wood on all other areas... So all is beautiful again. The strong sun we're having now (and will have all summer) and the bad waves we had slapping us for the last 4 months, created quite a beating to the wood, so now it's ready to battle the elements again. Joe's been babysitting (and supervising) the work and I've been pounding the pavements doing last-minute shopping. After a while though everything looks the same and after my feet get tired, no matter how great the bargain, nothing looks good. Tomorrow I think we'll browse one of the local malls (get haircuts, food shop, maybe catch a movie)... at least it will be air-conditioned. It's been in the mid to high 80's every day with humidity also in the 70’s to 80’s, but at least it cools down quite a bit in the evenings.
Just by the time we’re getting ready to leave, I’m finally getting quite good with finding my way around town with the local buses (40cents a ride)… Yesterday, I covered all parts of the town: the central market (with all the open air stalls of fruits, vegetables, fish, beef, etc.), the fabric stores and upholstery shops (for some cushions and more canvas projects), the shrimp ladies (ladies who set up stalls and sell fresh shrimp and lobsters every day), and the flower stalls. I accomplished all I wanted to, using my much improved Spanish, including buying 8 small lobster tails (a little more than a 3 pounds) from the “shrimp ladies” for $15 and a beautiful bouquet of mums for $2. Last night we barbequed the lobster tails, devouring ALL of them, Mexican style with some tortillas, salsa, and of course Americanized it a little with some garlic butter. Yum!
We’ve really eaten out a lot since we’ve been here as there are such great restaurants Besides the usual great seafood places, and of course “typical” Mexican fare, we lately have been searching for something different… and with hundreds and hundreds of restaurants to choose from, in the last week we’ve found a few “different” foods and places to try. One we tried specialized in steaks and also Cabrito (roasted and barbequed baby goat). I tried the cabrito… and got a whole leg which was succulent…texture of turkey, flavor of roasted lamb and not very greasy. Joe got molcajete (a local specialty: pieces of beef, mild chilies/green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and whole chunks of local cheese (which is like a mozzarella,). They cook the dish in individual serving lava-rock type bowls (shaped like a mortar). With the ingredients inside it, is placed over a hot open fire and then served (lava-hot) in the mortar bowl to your table in its own sauce. Of course it’s served w/ fresh tortillas on the side. Besides the food, what was interesting about the place, which was called Casa Country, is the waiters would stop every once in a while and would do line dances to the American Country music. It was pretty funny seeing chubby little Mexicans wearing cowboy hats and dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart!"
Just to give you an idea, they also have very romantic and more continental restaurants in town. We went to one last night called Casa Loma. It was sort of "old world" decor with heavy dark furniture and Red velvet, white tablecloths and gold china. Very elegant and great service. I actually had the most expensive thing on the menu (but very cheap by US standards, only $20), but something I've not seen in Mexico yet, Oso Bucco (veal shanks braised in a mustard caper sauce). They, like a lot of the restaurants we tried here in Mazatlan, also had the flaming dishes (Steak Diane, crepes suzette, cherries jubilee, etc) and Caesar's salad all prepared and served AT the tableside.
One of the best things about cruising is, besides seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, new foods, etc., is the opportunity to meet new people. And when you meet another cruiser or cruising couple, you automatically have something huge in common… your lifestyle of living on a boat, sea stories, comparing each other’s experiences and adventures, and a love of sailing and the sea. Our last couple of weeks we have met and gotten to know one couple (Tom and Rosalie aboard Bagabundo) quite well as well as some of their already established friends (they’ve been “buddy boating” together). We have shared lots of shopping together, and in the evenings, lots of meals going out… giving Joe and I other people to talk to than just ourselves for a change. But unfortunately, they just took off a few days ago to the North to spend their summer in the Sea of Cortez and we are heading in the opposite direction. We will keep in touch via e-mail and ham radio though and perhaps join up next fall when they head back down south on the mainland.
We have also met and become acquainted with a few Mexican locals. In the last chapter, I told you about one man and his friend taking Joe and I to Stone Island (a “locals” only hangout) for a day on the beach where Joe and I were the only Gringos. We also asked another Mexican man we got to know, Jesus, just in a passing conversation one day, if he was interested in seeing our boat some time. He said yes, and before I knew it he asked if he could bring his kids and wife also. I had no idea what to expect or what we’d talk about but they showed up last Sunday afternoon and ended up staying for several hours. It was actually nice and they seemed to enjoy doing something different. I gave the kids some Hershey’s chocolates and Jesus a polo-shirt that we had made up for our boat with "Mi Gitana" and a picture Ketch-rigged sailboat embroidered on it. Then THEY ended up inviting US over to their home, and although our time remaining here is really short, we knew we couldn't insult them, so we accepted and in a couple of days they will pick us up and we are going to their house. [By the way the next day, we were surprised when we accidentally ran into Jesus at his work-site, wearing proudly his new maroon “Mi Gitana” polo shirt!]
We did end up going to Jesus’ house, which was an experience. Both Jesus and his wife speak some English, by the way, and have, by Mexican standards, fairly good jobs working in the tourist trade with 2 different Time-share resorts. But we soon found out, by OUR standards, they are still very poor. Their way of “picking us up”, was Jesus and his 2 little kids, met us at the bus stop outside of our hotel/marina, the El Cid, and accompanied us by bus to their house. (We had no idea they had no car). From the destination bus stop, we walked a few blocks to their house, which was the second surprise. It seemed smaller than our boat inside (maybe 350-400 square feet total!), consisting of a small living room, kitchen, and both Jesus and his wife and 2 kids shared the one bedroom (both kids in one small bed). They had no oven in the kitchen, and a very small refrigerator… and no yard. BUT, they were so very proud of their house, and all the work they had done to make it so nice. They had saved their money for 10 years to buy it as most people who buy in Mexico have to pay cash for their homes as the interest rates in the banks for Mexicans ranges from 35% (for the “rich” with credit) to 65% (for the poor with no credit). They also probably spent a lot of money and time preparing for our visit. Jesus cooked Carne Asada for us on a tiny barbeque in a outdoor wash room they had, and his mother-in law had cooked all day the refried beans. The sister had made the guacamole, etc. Several of the relatives all stopped in to “meet the guests” and to share in the food. Knowing we shouldn’t show up empty handed, but having no idea what to bring, we brought along a bouquet of flowers and I brought along a home-made German chocolate cake that I had made in my dinky boat oven. The cake was a hit (something they had never had) and the night was a lot of fun.
I read an article in a cruiser’s magazine recently entitled "Celibacy in the Sea of Cortez" about it being so hot that the couple writing the article didn't have sex for the entire 4 months they were there in the summer. I now really understand that comment. It applies for here also. It is not only too hot w/ our body heat for Joe and I to lie close together each night, I can't even stand for my own 2 legs to touch or my arm to touch my trunk... etc. Thank god for the 4 fans Joe installed, but I think double the amount of fans would not even make it "pleasant." It has been even hotter in the last few days, now in the 90's with humidity in mid 80's. Reminds me of San Antonio Texas, New Orleans, or even my “home town,” Orlando in the summer, but the main difference here is when the humidity reaches that high there, it clouds up and rains every afternoon. We haven't seen any rain (except a few minutes of drizzle in February one day) since we left last December. Usually so far on our trip, even if it's hot walking around town, it's been nice on the boat as we have the constant, all-day-long sea breezes. But lately it's been almost still with little wind during the day and none at night. And we hear when we get to Puerto Vallarta, it's supposed to be about 10 degrees on the average warmer than Mazatlan. So I think I'll be plenty ready for the June Gloom when we return to San Diego. We are hoping to get relief from the heat when we pull out of here in a few days out to sea where we at least SHOULD get more sea breezes.
The marina here at the El Cid resort is getting more and more empty as the days go by. The boats leaving for the South Pacific this season have all gone already and the remaining boats are pulling out to get away from the mainland Mexico summer heat and going into the Sea of Cortez for the summer, and some are done w/ their cruising and heading back to San Diego. That is, all boats EXCEPT us… So far we’re the only boat we know of heading SOUTH on the mainland. We planned it this way though as Puerto Vallarta is the only real “hurricane hole” on the mainland (w/ no hurricanes to hit there since recorded history — over 155 years).
Since this next leg of the trip we are heading South, I am convinced that when we leave in a few days (because of our past BAD luck w/ the weather) that the usual North West winds, [which lately, as per above heat wave, have been VERY light or almost non-existent,] will change to gale force coming up from the South, so again we'll have them on the nose. We’ll see in just a few days now!
We left Mazatlan this afternoon around 4:30 PM and are underway right now on an overnight trip to our first destination, Isla Isabella, which is about 30 minutes off shore and about half-way between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. It is supposed to be a beautiful place, where we plan to spend several days. It is a protected island and bird sanctuary (that has been featured on several nature TV shows), but with little if anything in the way of people civilization. We should arrive before noon tomorrow (Thursday). For about 1 1/2 glorious hours just before sunset today, we did have 3 of the sails up and were able to get above 5 knots (slow for this boat, but a pleasant and acceptable speed). After that, the winds pretty much died. Hopefully they will pick up later on so we can resume sailing.
We arrived okay at Isla Isabella this afternoon, several hours later than predicted. That was because there was almost no wind and what wind we had that was SUPPOSED to come out of the NW for over half the trip was from the south and right on the nose. At times the seas were completely glassy. So we became a motorboat again and motoring is slower for us than sailing... hence us being a few hours late. Along the way, (and especially visible in the almost ripple-less ocean), I noted these small birds sitting on what appeared to be “floating rocks.” I looked around and saw another bird/floating rock combo, and then another, and before long, everywhere I saw a bird in the water, with the binoculars, I could see it was sitting on a rock. We finally got close to several of them and realized the “floating rocks” were actually sea turtles. It seems the birds were hitchhiking a ride as the turtles swam along the surface.
The anchorage here at Isla Isabella is really nice, very calm and has a much needed and appreciated breeze. It was 91 degrees here INSIDE our cabin yesterday afternoon after arrival and that was with all the hatches and portholes open. So we spent most of the afternoon and early evening outside in the breeze watching the millions (literally) of frigates and boobies and pelicans flying over us and diving in the lagoon where we are anchored.
One thing about being at a bird sanctuary is where there a lot of birds, there is lots of guano, and where there is lots of guano, there are millions of flies. Not quite as bad as our gnat experience off that other island near La Paz, but bad enough. They invaded us as soon as we set anchor. We had some mosquito nets made in Mazatlan for our hatches, so at least we can get some ventilation... but at the same time we found that the nets trapped those flies already IN our cabin so they also couldn’t get out. So Joe and I have been taking turns with the fly swatter. The record is killing 3 flies in one swat!
Today we went to set up our dinghy (for a day of island “exploring”) and somehow, in moving things around on the back deck, sprung a leak in one of our fuel bladders filled w/ diesel on deck. So we spent a good hour trying to clean up our mess. Thank god we caught it before the diesel went into the anchorage water. Then deploying our dinghy also seems to be a major event... So our 1 hour drop-the-dinghy-in-the-water project, ended up taking over 5 hours... IN THE BLASTED BLAZING SUN! We were pooped but after all that trouble (and the heat really takes it out of you!), we wanted to go for a ride ashore. We couldn't see a path up to the beach at our anchorage (where we could land the dinghy), as there were lots of rocks and what looked to be some sort of coral. So we explored around the corner to see what was at the south entrance (another charted anchorage). There were some huge breakers but it looked as if we could have followed a panga (Mexican fishing boat) and gotten in okay, but since it was now close to 6PM, we decided to go the next day, since we had another full day to stay here in Isabella. We also talked to the couple in the motor yacht anchored next to us, who we had seen take tanks out and go diving, and asked them some advice about where to snorkel.
So that WAS our plan for today, Saturday: dinghy to shore, walk along the boobie and frigate path from the beach to "explore" and take pictures of the nests and babies AND then to cool off by snorkeling. Well last night there was extremely rolley-polley seas as the wind had changed around to the North West but the swells were still out of the South, so they were hitting us on the beam. This morning Joe went to get in the dinghy first and the swells were so huge that he deemed it to be too dangerous for us to dinghy over to the South side (especially with the large breakers over there)... AND because of the huge waves, it also made the water too churned up to snorkel. So that was very disappointing! (Another lesson learned, don’t put off until tomorrow special experiences… as tomorrow things may change–as did in this case.)
So we ended up instead of having a fun day of exploration, we began packing up everything again and readied the boat to leave at O-dark -30 the tomorrow morning (Sunday) for our next destination.
We had another miserable night trying to sleep again last night with the big rolling swells. The night before we tried to sleep crosswise on the bed (which is a little more comfortable to have your head and upper body go up and down versus your whole body being tossed from side to side when sleeping longitudinally in line w/ the boat); BUT in doing so, both of our legs were hanging off the bed just below the knees. Not comfortable. So last night I slept alone on the crosswise settee (in the “living room”) which is barely wide enough for my butt... so not much room for one who sleeps on her side with her legs curled at the knees. One night w/o sleep makes me cranky... but 2 in a row, and we are both quite cranky. We pray tonight it will be nice at our next destination.
Although I was sorry we didn't get to see any of the green toed boobies and frigging frigates and their babies up close, I was NOT sorry to leave the rolly anchorage AND THE FLIES! Having left at sunrise this morning, we are now underway today for our next destination, back on the mainland at a small beach resort with a bay and anchorage called Chacala, only about 40 miles north of the entrance to the bay where Puerto Vallarta is.
We arrived here in Chacala yesterday (Sunday) at about 5:30 PM, 11 hours after leaving Isla Isabella. Of course when we left, what little wind we had, again was coming from the South East–the direction we were heading. We got excited when it finally shifted about 40 degrees off the nose from the SSW, and we put the sails up and killed the engine. Finally silence and we were able even in the light (10-12 knots) wind to sail. But about an hour later, the wind dropped to less than 8 knots and became "variable" -- rotating around -- causing our sails to flap too much, so we again started the motor. We were able to supplement the motor w/ the sails though and at least keep our speed up above 5 knots (which would assure us a pre-sunset arrival). We also feel most of the time we are the proud owners of a motor vessel that has sails for "decoration." At least we LOOK prettier than those motor yacht tubs!
WE snagged on our hand line a beautiful green and yellow dorado (mahi-mahi) yesterday just a mile before we got to our anchorage. It was so easy to pull in, I wasn’t even sure I had a fish. When I got it to the surface it thrashed and thrashed against the side of the boat while Joe tried unsuccessfully to gaff it (remember our first and only other fish we didn't have a gaff... so we bought one in Cabo,) and that didn't work (he said the gills were too small... but that sounds like an excuse to me!) so I put it back in the water to drag it (and possibly drown it) for a few minutes (while running to get the tequila to try and pour down it's gills… supposedly a tried and true way among cruisers to kill the fish before bringing a thrashing bloody boat aboard beautiful teak decks! ). Anyway it kept shaking and thrashing on the side of the boat and then to our dismay, spit out the hook. Our mouths were already prematurely watering thinking of the grilled Mahi fillets we were going to have as soon as we set anchor. Oh well, now we will be in search of a boat hand net to buy… which SHOULD make the job a cinch to get aboard. And THEN we can kill it with the whisky/tequila down the gills! So instead today we will go ashore eat someone else's fresh caught dorado in one of the restaurants on the beach.
When we arrived last night there were 2 sailboats at anchorage already, bow and stern anchored. We parked (I know not a very nautical way of talking) a ways away from them to give us rotating room with our standard bow anchor. It seemed pleasant enough until, of course, just the time I went to bed when, for some reason unknown to me, the rollers became huge and 90% of our swinging circumference, had the waves attacking us right on the beam. We were taking 30 degree rolls, and hence a 3rd night without much sleep and sleeping separately with me trying to maneuver my fat, flat butt around from side to side on a much too narrow settee!! Joe agreed we needed to try to set a stern anchor to try and hold our bow into the waves. This was a new untried before skill for us and after reading several "how to" articles that we brought along, we somehow successfully unanchored from our current location, moved the boat closer into the shoreline, reset the bow anchor, and then deployed the dinghy to carry out and behind us the stern anchor. This took another 3 hours (better than the 5 hours in Isabella) getting the dinghy deployed w/ motor and anchors re-set. But hallelujah, it worked and we are now setting much better w/ our bow set into the waves and no rotating. Our original plan was to leave for another anchorage called Jaltemba tomorrow morning (only 8 miles away), and spend another day at anchor there... BUT with all the trouble we went thru to get in a good unrolley position, and then to have to undo it all today (plus, historically, Jaltemba is supposed to be MORE rolly than here!), we decided to stay an extra day here and skip Jaltemba.
Since we got in after the Port Captain left last evening, today, after the 3-hour anchor detail, we went to pay a visit to the Port Capitan to check in. The cruising guide says there is a dinghy landing at the dock where the all the pangas are. We motored over there in our dinghy and first got tangled in the maze of stern anchors all the pangas had off the back of their boats (to hold them off of the dock). As we got closer we could see with probably 34-50 pangas tied up to the tiny "dock," there was no way we could even squeeze a place in. So the plan was to tie up to one of the “back row” pangas and then climb in and over that boat and then the next, until we reached the steps up the dock. MUCH EASIER said than done. Joe did it without too much trouble, climbing in and over 2 different pangas (they were at least 2 deep to get to the dock) to the steps. But me, with absolutely not an agile ounce in my body, I had to crawl on my hands and knees (remember there are lots of huge swells here) over lots of stinky fishing nets, then scoot on my butt over bird poopy seats, making quite a humorous show for all the fishermen onlookers on the shoreline next to the "dock". Any way the Port Captain must have been also watch our "show" out his window, as the first thing he told us when we entered his office is that all the cruisers land their dinghies on a small beach under his office and NOT the panga landing. How embarrassing!
We were hoping being out to sea and in anchorage, that the sea breezes would help a lot, but at night most of the wind dies and the fans we have aboard are just blowing around hot air. I have been feeling very devoid of any energy lately and it feels mentally and physically exhausting to even get up from a horizontal position and walk a few feet around the boat or especially to do a "boat project" outside the boat. I’ve had a headache every day for 8 days now and am pretty sure it is the heat and humidity and although I'm drinking twice as many fluids as I normally do, I'm sure I'm still mostly dehydrated and still not adjusted to it. Funny how 2 and 3 months ago while in Cabo and La Paz, I was whining and complaining about how cold it was, and "where is the tropics?" -- and now I'm dying in the heat. Hopefully adjustment will come soon. I managed to live 3 1/2 years in the Philippines and this for sure can’t be any worse than that... so I must have adjusted there.
Although hot, it's also been VERY beautiful at the 2 anchorages we’ve been at so far, since we left Mazatlan. The place we are now, Chacala is a tiny beachside "resort" with palapas (thatched roofed restaurants) along the beach, coconut palms, lush jungle vegetation behind the beach huts, and water so warm that tomorrow I plan to take my first ocean swim since leaving home. We ate dinner outside tonight at one of the beach restaurants and had mahimahi fillets, shrimp, rice, tortillas, cerveza (beer) , margaritas, and 2 cokes (we were very dehydrated from the heat) and the total bill was around $20. Actually a little higher than some “bargain” places in Mazatlan, but a spectacular setting overlooking the big breakers (body surfing and boogie boarding type) and the sunset was well worth it --making it a supreme bargain in a picture perfect setting. The whole town closes down by sunset (the restaurants actually close at 6), and the town becomes very dark as electricity is limited... and then does not show any sign of life again until about 10 in the morning.
Today, our last day at Chacala, we sat out under one of the palapas and had cold peel-and- eat shrimp and cold drinks and read our books … and I even had my first ocean swim and pounded in the waves. At last, the water was wonderfully warm. Tomorrow morning we leave again to go to another anchorage at the mouth of Banderas Bay (the “harbor” where Puerto Vallarta is located), only about 30 miles away.
The last 2 nights have FINALLY been UN-rolly and very comfortable. The stern anchor certainly made a difference. Also we haven’t had any mosquitoes or no-see-ums or flies at all… except some hitchhiking flies that we must have brought over with us from Isabella.
Yesterday morning we left Chacala at about 8:30AM and got to Punta de Mita around 4:30. We were actually able to sail part of the way without a motor (quite a novelty on this boat), which was nice. The winds though were very light (usually less than 10 knots) and for several hours we had to supplement w/ motor. The seas most of the time were pretty glassy. We had the lines out but NO fish. We saw some more of the hitchhiking birds on the sea turtles, but no humpback whales that are so plentiful here as they’ve migrated back north.
As I said previously, Punta de Mita is actually at the "mouth" of the harbor called Banderas Bay, which is the entrance to Puerto Vallarta. It is the largest Bay/Harbor in Mexico and is over 35 miles across. Our plans are to hang out here “on the hook” for 4-5 days until Monday morning, at which time, we'll head into our reservations at the marina in Puerto Vallarta. So where we are now will be our last time at anchor until probably November when we head further south. The shoreline here is lined with a beautiful white sandy beach, a dozen palapa hut restaurants and some large condominiums. We are also overlooking a huge golf course (Jack Nicholas designed, I believe), which is part of a 4 Season’s Resort (where we are told the room START at $700/night up to $15K with the average room/suite costing around $3-4K for a night!)
Thru our binoculars we surveyed the shoreline, seeing lots of shoal water, lots of rocks and several breakwaters looking for a place we could land our dinghy ashore. Since yesterday afternoon after our arrival and this morning, we watched and watched all the other sail boats anchored here to see where they took their dinghies ashore so we would know THIS time where to safely land. Unfortunately we saw NO ONE go to shore, as it seems most of the boats arriving here are here overnight (probably coming from Puerto Vallarta) and then use this as a jump-off point to continue on their course either north to Cabo and back to US or across and into the sea, so they didn't deploy their dinghies at all! So not seeing anybody (including pangas) go to the beaches in front of palapas and ALL of the hundreds of fishermen in their pangas going back and forth between 2 big breakwaters... we followed their course... And of course were in for another adventure of trying to push in between 2 layers deep of pangas and all of their anchor lines into the entry waters… almost a repeat of our Chacala experience. It was quite a challenge but we managed (only getting tangled up one or two times in their lines and having to lift their slimy stern anchor lines over us and our dinghy one time). But, it was worth the challenge. We found a "favorite" palapa restaurant some cruising friends recommended and sat there for most of the afternoon drinking Cuba Libres and eating more mahi-mahi fish fillets and reading our books in the reclining beach chairs on the beach. On the way back to the panga landing, we saw one of the last palapas had a sign that said "2PM-10PM, 2 for 1 Margaritas and Pizza". We were getting pretty tired of fish and shrimp, (something I thought would never be possible), and Pizza sounded great. So we went back to our boat for a few hours and then turned around tonight and returned, THIS TIME "parking" our dinghy right in front of the restaurant. The bartender was an American young girl, and her surfer-type boyfriend was the Pizza maker (even wood fired Pizza!) They had finished school/college and wanted an adventure and just heard a friend once talk about Puerto Vallarta, looked it up on the Internet...and just packed up and headed down here last December... no Spanish ability, no place to stay or job lined up... Now they manage, cook and bar tend and live on the restaurant property in this small beach village. Oh how wonderful it must be to be young, without a care in the world and a spirit of adventure, (and of course, in love!)
When we got back on the boat tonight (before sunset), we had quite a show put on near us in the bay by the acrobatic manta rays. There were probably 30-40 of them flipping and flopping about. At one time thru the binoculars, Joe said he saw 6-8 of them at one time jumping out of the water doing flips in the air...and all around that were like a frenzy of splashes in the water. I read in my Mexico guide book about PV and it said this time of year is their mating season and they flip in the air while they are mating. Joe said then we must have been witnessing a large group sex orgy! The book also said this is one of the few shark-less bays in the Pacific. And that's because it's and all-year-round breeding place for dolphins, so an "infantry" of bottlenose dolphins guards at all times of the year the entrance to the bay. (If a shark tries to enter, they gang up on it and w/ great force and speed, ram the sharks … and they either are killed or they leave!) Interesting.
Today is our last day here at Punta de Mita and it’s been a wonderful stay. We've just been lounging on the beach, reading and being lazy. We took our cards to shore today, found a table in the shade, and played a few hands of "Spite and Malice" and Rummy. We’ve also watched aboard in the evenings a few videotapes that I picked up in Mazatlan “on sale” at a Mexican Supermarket. The videos are in English w/ Spanish subtitles. Tomorrow morning we leave here, pulling anchor for the last time for at least 6 months, and head out for our marina further inland in Banderas Bay to Nuevo Vallarta, which is only about 2 hours away.
We arrived here at Nuevo Vallarta a little after noon today at our new “home” for the next 6 months, Paradise Village Resort and Marina. And WOW! I thought our last place, the El Cid Resort in Mazatlan was ritzy… this place is even more 5-Star than there. First of all Nuevo Vallarta (“New” Vallarta) is a brand new planned vacation and living community about 10 minutes North of Puerto Vallarta. Paradise village is just one of the resorts built here and there are lots of other ones still in the planning and building stages. Although slightly “isolated” from the center of action, bars, other tourist hotels and restaurants, Paradise Village was built as a city into itself. This resort has over 400 acres including hotels, condominiums, private homes, golf courses, the 200-slip marina, restaurants, grocery store, and even it’s own air-conditioned 2-level shopping mall. There are lots of private custom homes and condos for sale and yet to be built located right on the golf courses, with private beaches and ocean views and some with their own individual docks and slips for their yachts. Right next to our marina, there are also tennis courts, and a full service spa and gym.
The hotel where the marina is attached is very beautiful and in a “Mayan” temple type décor with all the rooms and restaurants opening out to the gorgeous miles long white sand beach. There are 3 swimming pools also that “overlook” the beach and all the water activities that you can imagine (snorkeling, boogie boarding, para-sailing, jet skiing, kayaking, etc.) The grounds around the hotel (and all it’s accessories) are almost indescribable with such rich lushness and tropical plants and flowers everywhere… They have peacocks walking around the grounds and aviaries with tropical flying birds, toucans, parrots, etc.) They even have their own mini-zoo right in the middle of the complex with a lion, crocodile, flamingos, monkeys, and a seal pond. Instead of waking up every morning as we have at all our recent anchorages with roosters cock-a-doodle-doing… we hear the cawing of the parrots and toucans on our boat. As paying guests of the marina, we also have (like at the El Cid), full guest privileges as if we were staying in one of the rooms/suites at the hotel. Only we’re only paying around $15 per day versus the usual $300-500 per day for the hotel customers!
We are on our 3rd day here and have yet to leave the Paradise Village resort. Unfortunately, that’s NOT because we’ve been partying by the pool or relaxing on the beach w/ a margarita in our hand. Instead, we've been sweating and working and sweating … all part of the getting settled in process. We have a lot more to do post-arrival this time in addition to the usual getting the boat washed, scrubbed and polished inside and out, filling up water tanks, and 4 loads of laundry (that we always have to do after being anchored out for a period of time). This time we know we will not be taking Mi Gitana out again for probably 6 months, so it’s almost like getting her ready to put her in “storage” since we are leaving the boat here in a month with OUT us on board, for the storm season… so things more things need to be put away and better secured than we usually do at the marinas. We had to tightly fold and re-cover the sails, clean and deflate/fold and put the dinghy away, remove jack lines (safety lines that we tie to while underway) etc. Before we leave, we will have to clear the decks even more (probably filling our cabin), clear the refrigerator/ freezer and I’m sure, a hundred other little “get-ready-to go” projects. But for now, 3 days worth of work is enough… tomorrow, we hope to do some exploring OUT of our little paradise and head into central Puerto Vallarta.
The heat and humidity is still with us, so all projects on the boat seem to take 2 times as long and be twice as miserable. And everyone who’s already been here a summer season or two keeps telling us "THIS AIN'T NOTHING YET!" It seems most of the cruisers, who have their boats here, like us, are leaving their boats and heading home in a few weeks to escape the heart. One girl I spoke to yesterday said her home in New Orleans even feels cool to her in the summer compared to here. Hard to believe!
I haven’t mentioned it before, but we DO actually have a central air conditioner (which doubles as a heating unit in the winter) aboard Mi Gitana. Of course we can only use it while plugged into shore power, as it would drain our batteries within minutes if we used it while anchored out. We had only used it once when we first bought Mi Gitana 4+ years ago to just try it out, as seldom does it get hot enough in San Diego for it -- and Joe’s intention was for us NEVER to use it… as from his perspective, it would be one more thing to break, to have to fix, to have to maintain. But yesterday, he finally agreed we could try it out. And wow, did it feel great!!! We noticed that it didn’t seem to significantly drop the temperature, but it dropped the humidity on our inside gauge over 30%… which certainly made us feel a lot more comfortable.
Tomorrow or the next day, we’re going to take a “city tour” again with a tour group so we can get more oriented to our wonderful surroundings and learn more about our host city of Puerto Vallarta. I had planned to hold off mailing this chapter until I could write more about PV but see that this is already one of the longest chapters I have written yet. So I will wait a couple of weeks and send one last final (at least for 5 months) chapter before we leave here on June 13th to return to San Diego for the summer.
Looking back and re-reading and editing the above chapter, I know I did a lot of complaining about the heat, the humidity, the flies, rolly anchorages, more heat and humidity, exhaustion, sweat, dehydration, more heat and humidity, etc… BUT I want to end with saying, our experiences and times of fun and enjoyment and peace and tranquility have way outweighed the uncomfortable times. I write this journal though describing what I am feeling and experiencing… so instead of just writing the wonderful things about the cruising life, I am trying to paint a realistic depiction… that cruising is not just sitting back and watching beautiful sunsets, starry nights, and sipping a cocktail or fair winds and following seas… Those are the rewards … but there is a lot of work involved in this chosen lifestyle also, to enable us to have those rewardingly wonderful times. So Yes, DAD and for anyone else wondering… we ARE taking the time to smell the roses (or where we are now, the orchids!) along the way and hopefully, making the best of every experience that comes our way!!