Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back in Punta Mita...

We've been back to our Punta Mita condo for several weeks after completing our second season of cruising the west coast of Mexico. Hurricane season runs May 15 through October 31 and brings with it warmer more humid weather along with frequent afternoon and evening thunder showers producing sometimes dramatic lightning. Since it's generally not a good time to be on the water we have Destiny safely tied up in La Cruz. Near the end of July we'll move her to the even safer venue of Paradise Village in case we experience some really nasty weather.
Our last posting had us still in the Sea of Cortez getting ready for an overnight crossing to Mazatlan where the boat was scheduled to be hauled before coming on home to Banderas Bay. We were able to get in a little sailing but motored most of the 170 odd miles without incident except for an alternator that kept overcharging the batteries. We disconnected the alternator which temporarily solved the problem enabling us to keep going. We arrived in Mazatlan on a Friday morning for our scheduled haul out on Monday. The boat yard and marina are all in the same complex complete with amenities like swimming pool, hot tub, very clean bathroom and shower facilities, WIFI and laundry room. We stayed on Destiny while she was out of the water and took full advantage of what the place had to offer. We, like most other boaters, dread the time out of the water but this was a fun and enjoyable experience. We partied with other cruisers at pot lucks and movie nights, and had a chance to further explore much of what Mazatlan has to offer. Best of all the work done to the boat was excellent and reasonably priced.

Mexico has a huge shrimping industry with Mazatlan at its center. On two occasions when the boat was hauled out we bought shrimp from a street vendor, and then took it to a nearby restaurant where they boil the shrimp for free and the beers are $1.00. The restaurant will prepare the shrimp in many other styles for around $3.00. Our favorite is sauteed in butter and garlic which is so yummy. It's a true Mexican setting with loud music no tourists around to spoil the ambience.

Being somewhat anxious to get home we decided to blast back to Banderas Bay without stopping somewhere along the way. We got in some good off wind sailing during the day and saw no other vessel traffic at night. In the early morning as we were approaching Punta Mita and Banderas Bay a series of nasty looking thunder storms materialized in front of us but dissipated as we started to make our way around them. All and all a good trip without incident.

Two weeks after returning, our friends David & Susan Sherrill arrived for an 9 day stay. We introduced them to the area around Punta Mita and then took off on Destiny for Chacala which is one of our favorite anchorages 35 miles to the north. Luckily we had a breeze out of the south so for much of the way we flew the spinnaker in ideal conditions. We caught our first dorado (mahi mahi), a fish that has alluded us since coming to Mexico, so it was sashimi later that afternoon.

Unfortunately, the anchorage at Chacala is open to the south so that afternoon and evening felt like we were on a floating trampoline. The next day things calmed down and with water in the mid 80's we kept jumping in and out. Our next stop was Guayabitos 7 miles down the coast where we understand 3,000 bikers visited the weekend before. That must have done in the place as we could not find anything open for dinner, so back on the boat Gilly and Susan put together a fantastic dish that will likely never be reproduced. Our trip home home in normal NW winds was another good one and we caught a second and larger dorado supplying our protein requirements the next few days. Who could ask for more??

We had planned to drive the Sherrill's into Vallarta but our Blazer decided to have an electrical problem which took a couple of days to sort out. It's such a shame as they were stuck swimming and surfing in front of the condo but somehow they adapted. We had a wonderful time with them and hopefully they'll come back for another visit. Soon after they left the weather got nasty so their timing was perfect.

During this past cruising season we went as far south as Manzanillo and subsequently well into the magnificent Sea of Cortez. We visited 22 different anchorages and overall covered about 2,000 miles. Not impressive when compared to what many others do, but certainly was a wonderful experience for us and we look forward to doing more of the same in the coming years. Right now we'd love to be enjoying the summer on San Francisco Bay where we have so many great friends and memories. Someday it will happen but for now we're happy having Destiny domiciled here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


There are six slideshows - sorry, way too many photos, but difficult to edit. All have such good memories. Hopefully, you can go through one or two and come back another day and go through the rest. They are in date order from when we came back from the south in March to now. You can click on the slideshow to control the speed, then when finished either close or click gillyfoy's gallery to view another.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

February through April 2009

The last time you heard from us was mid February when we were in Barra de Navidad which is about 160 miles south of our home base in Puerto Vallarta. We started to work our way home on February 20 with three stops along the way before reaching Punta Mita early in the morning of February 28 where we anchored in front of our condo. Our passage by the dreaded Cabo Corrientes (sometimes called Mexico's Point Conception) was nowhere near the challenge we encountered last year during the same passage. Staying comfortably anchored in a rolly Punta Mita became quite a challenge so before nightfall we headed east to the marina in La Cruz. While enroute we were treated to a thrilling tail splashing show put on by a mother whale and her calf. We were able to get as close as we dared as the whale splashed her tail over and over, each time with a tremendous thud on the surface of the water. After a while we saw this little tail come up and do the same thing. Very exciting for us to witness this unexpected show put on by two large residents of Banderas Bay.

We settled into life ashore while getting ready for John's college friends Bill & Bonnie Nurre and Bruce & Nancy Barley to spend time in Punta Mita. They stayed in a condo close to ours and by the time they left we had learned all kinds of new things about the area in which we live. This due to their outgoing personalities and thorough exploration of the whole area. It's crazy when visitors end up knowing more about the local area than we do. Super time was had by all.

Three days after their departure we had Destiny ready for more adventures and we took off, loosely traveling with our friends Louis & Laura on Cirque, with the ultimate goal of visiting the astoundingly beautiful Sea of Cotez. Our first leg was a day trip to Matanchen Bay which is just south of the town of San Blas into which Spanish galleons once sailed. From there it was an overnight trip to Mazatlan. During this leg we encountered an engine fuel leak, discovered just as we were entering Mazatlan. Through other cruising friends who were already there we found a mechanic who was able to diagnose and repair the problem. We also had him install our spare alternator as the old one sounded like it was about to give up the ghost. He and his partner were so professional that we decided to use their services to haul the boat on our return trip to Puerto Vallarta.

Three days later we departed Mazatlan for the sometimes bouncy overnight trip to an anchorage on the Baja side called Muertos (death in English)and from there it was a day trip on into La Paz. We had been told that the wind can come up at night in the Sea of Cortez and we were initiated the first night in Muertos when it gusted up to 35 knots. We were not really worried but as you will later read we should have been.

Upon arriving in La Paz we hooked up with 30 other boats to participate in a Latitude 38 sponsored event known as Sea of Cortez Sailing Week which started on April 1. This consisted of informal racing on four legs of 20 odd miles each and overnight stays in two beautiful anchorages. The sailing conditions could not have been more perfect with off the wind sailing in good breezes on all four of the legs. Although clearly not among the fastest boats participating, Destiny was never far behind the leaders and our red and white spinnaker really helped us out. Clearly one of the best sailing and socializing events we've ever done.

When the event was over we were back in La Paz (a town we very much like) to get ready for more adventures further into the Sea of Cortez. Our first adventure was anchoring in La Paz where the ever changing winds and tidal currents, not to mention other boats close at hand, make it a real challenge. We thought our anchoring experiences in the wind and currents of San Francisco Bay would give us the background we needed for La Paz. Wrong!! We could not take the anxiety anymore and went into a marina at 9:30 PM on our last night there and slept like babies.

We departed La Paz on April 9 for Ensenada Grande about 27 miles to the northeast. This was just the first of many beautiful anchorages that we've enjoyed in the Sea. The water in most all places is a clear emerald green with white sand beaches. The swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and boat bottom cleaning are among the best we've encountered in Mexico. Because there are so many attractive anchorages close by we've tended to move around much more to explore as much as possible while we're here. Compared to mainland Mexico the anchorages are generally quite calm and dinghy landings are easy without any kind of surf to survive. On the other hand, the wind can come up strongly from almost any direction so it's not unusual for the boat to turn much more than 360 degrees over any 24 hour period.

Since we've been in 16 anchorages we cannot describe them all but here are some highlights (actually, maybe low lights):

San Evaristo. Although there was a 14 knot breeze, we were enjoying ourselves on Easter Sunday afternoon when we noticed Destiny dragging. We got the engine fired up and went to pull the anchor only to find to our complete dismay that the anchor was not attached to the end of the chain. Had this happened when we were off the boat or sleeping at night, it would have been a real disaster probably resulting in loss of the boat, or at the very least serious damage. Our very fancy and expensive Italian made stainless steel swivel shackle had broken. We re-anchored with our spare, close to the place where we thought the anchor might be and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering and trying to figure out how to retrieve this bulky 55 pound object buried in the sand. The next day we used our GPS to spot where we thought it might be and then placed a marker over the spot. Gilly was the first to swim out there and found the anchor in short order. John then dove down in about 13' of water and attached a line and we then pulled Destiny over the top of the anchor and wrestled it on board. Had we not been able to recover the anchor it probably would have meant cutting out the balance of our cruising plans for this year. We've since heard of two other boats in Mexico with the same type of shackles that recently broke resulting the loss of their anchors. We strongly recommend to anyone using this type of shackle to toss it in the garbage. We were sooo lucky.

Isla Coronados. The Sea is a fantastic place but bees can be a problem. We were taking an afternoon nap (something we seem to do often) with our bedroom door closed as the generator was running when bees took over the boat. We opened the door to find them all over the main cabin. While John hid away from the action, Gilly quickly went on the offensive and ended up killing more than 100 of the pesky critters. She looked like a swatting fool and did a fantastic job saving her man.

As this is being written we're in an anchorage known as Los Gatos making our way back to La Paz and then on to Mazatlan which requires an overnight trip across the Sea of Cortez. Our Destiny will be hauled there to have the bottom sanded and painted with hopefully not too many other items to be done. After that it's back to Punta Mita where we're very much looking forward to a visit from David & Susan Sherill in early June.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

December through February 17

Gosh, it's been 2 months since we last updated our blog which unfortunately is about right for us.

In our last addition we talked about Destiny's transmission dying just as we were entering the marina in La Cruz. Fortunately, the actual repair turned out to be a minor one but it took time and a few $$ to figure out what went wrong. Everything is now better than new so we'll just wait to see what's the next item to have some kind of issue.

We loaded up Destiny and took off from La Cruz on December 13. Our goal was to reach Barra de Navidad by December 24 with intermediate stops along with way at Punta Mita (right off our condo), Chamela and Tenacatita. All went well except for our success in fishing which seems to have escaped us. Other friends are catching nice fish but we might as well be in the Dead Sea. Fortunately fresh fish is easy to buy in Mexico so it's not a big deal. Our friend, Debbie Bledsoe, who lives in La Cruz drove to Barra to spend Christmas with us and then gave us a ride back to Punta Mita in time to meet Scott, Hillary, our cute and constantly active little grand-girls, and their dog, Libbie, for their two week visit. Prior to leaving Barra we spent Christmas day at a cruiser's pot luck that included turkey and ham with all the trimmings and many wonderful side dishes. Definitely not your traditional Christmas around the fire with family but very enjoyable.

The family visit was fantastic and it looks like we will be seeing much more of them as they're planning to spend the next school year in San Francisco (known as San Pancho by the locals) which is a half hour drive north of our condo. The girls will be immersed in Spanish during their stay and will hopefully be fluent when they go back to Colorado Springs. Scott's employer has given him permission to work away from the office as long as he has an internet connection. As you can imagine we're very much looking forward to this.

Hillary took and posted fabulous pictures of the girls during their stay - please check out their blog and the photos, on the attached link - "Our Grandkids"...

On January 18 we took a 4.5 hour, first-class bus ride, complete with movies and a snack from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad. Cost at the current exchange rate was $12 pp. Destiny was waiting for us at the spectacular Grand Bay Hotel marina. The hotel is 5 star rated with beautiful facilities but only a handful of guests. We're not sure how the place stays open as the staff must outnumber the guests by 10 to 1. After enjoying the hotel facilities, provisioning and getting the boat ready to go, we headed out for Santiago Bay 20 miles to the southeast. We were in the area two years ago for a one day stay with David & Anneke aboard Freedom so we had some idea what to expect. We spent two+ weeks in the three very different anchorages and we enjoyed them all. First was Santiago, the more traditional Mexican anchorage with a broad beach dotted with palapa restaurants, followed further along by magnificent multi-million dollar homes. The second, Las Hadas (where the movie "10" was filmed) has a real Mediterranean feel with hotels and restaurants looking down on a relatively small anchorage.

The last anchorage was the beautiful and remote Carrizal, which has no shore side facilities but fantastic scenery and snorkeling, with live coral, right off the back of the boat. One afternoon, after a bout of snorkling, Gilly was sitting in the cockpit reading when a shark cruised two feet from the boat. It had spots, dorsal fin and the classic shark tale, but as we didn't see it's head it was hard to identify. We guessed it was about 10-12 feet long. Other cruiser's think it may have been a whale shark. Regardless, we were glad to be out of the water when it decided to come calling.

All of these anchorages are just north of the port city of Manzanillo which we also enjoyed visiting several times.

On February 11 we made the trip back to Barra where we're now anchored in what they call 'the lagoon'. We can see the Grand Bay Hotel but staying in the lagoon is much easier on the budget. Last year we came here with the idea of staying 2 days and ended up hanging around for 2 weeks. We love the feel of the place and the little town of Barra which is an easy dinghy ride away. We'll stay here until around February 20 when we start our trek back to La Cruz in time for visitors to the condo. After that we plan to be in La Paz by April 1 for another event sponsored by Latitude 38. Very much looking forward to this plus spending more time in the Sea of Cortez.

No matter what we're doing, our time in Mexico seems to fly by faster than we realize.

Click on the photos to view....

Christmas to Feb 17 in Barra de Navidad

Chuy - our semi adopted beach dog...

Saturday, January 3, 2009