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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Life on the hook

29 January 2006
Punta Perula, Bahia de Chamela

This morning we put our 50 gallon/hour water maker to work. Yesterday John worked it out with Guillermo at one of the tiendas to have 10 garrafons (five gallon water cooler jugs) of water delivered to the far end of the beach where we land our dinghies. At 8:15 AM he paddled in to shore with the kayak to wait for the 8:30 delivery. Aldo arrived with the water truck at about 8:45, and John called me on the radio to come in with the dinghy. We anchored it in about 4' of water outside the surf break and, wearing our swimsuits, carried each garrafon from the beach to the dinghy. When all 10 were loaded up John helped launch me in the kayak before he jumped in the dinghy, and we returned to Nakia to fill one of our water tanks. We use a siphon pump to get the water from each garrafon into the tank, carefully pouring the last drops from each jug into the first empty so that we get it all. We completed the process at about 09:30.

After a nice breakfast of eggs and potatoes we loaded the 10 empties, tied in bundles of five, and went around to the remaining boats in the anchorage to say hi. There were 12 boats here last night (including three big power boats), but by the time we got out and about only four besides us were left. We had an uneventful dinghy landing (one boat got dumped badly trying to get off the beach yesterday evening; they managed to recover their expensive glasses, but the outboard was completely submerged so they were rowing back to their boat), dumped our garbage in one of the ubiquitous blue barrels behind a palapa restaurant, and began our walk to the other end of town. When John made the inquiry about a water delivery we were returning from a walk along the beach, and he started at the far end of town because he noticed the tienda had a water truck parked right behind it. Next time we'll probably start at the dinghy landing and work our way down until we find someone who can deliver to the beach.

The town was about as lively as it gets around here since it's Saturday. People were lined up at the carniceria for something fatty looking in a huge steel pot full of fat - maybe fresh carnitas? We bought water and a soda and sat on a shady bench in the zocolo (town square) watching the birds and butterflies in the bougainvillea. There was a small street market set up nearby selling new clothing, cosmetics, hair doo-dads, and house wares. Not many other shopping opportunities here, and business looked brisk. Still no sign of life at the only panaderia in town. Last time we were here the woman doing the baking looked like she should probably retire soon, so maybe she's gone to Guadalajara to live with her family.

Everyone agrees the fishing hasn't been very good on the gold coast so far this season. One of the best things since we've been here is the school of two dozen or more crevalle jacks in the anchorage. They aren't good eating but John says they're a lot of fun to catch. He had one yesterday that fought for half an hour, and was three feet long. He hooked a second one which took out 50 yards of line before bending the hooks straight, releasing itself.

We recently had a discussion with another boat regarding being "sophomores" this year. We all agreed that although we're still enjoying Mexico very much, the bloom of first year excitement has worn off and now, instead of it being all adventure, all the time, we feel as though life is a bit more routine. So we apologize for not keeping up the blog on as regular a basis as we did last year, but now you know the reason why.

Linda and John

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Happy Anniversary day

25 January 2006
Isla Passavera, Bahia Chamela

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary today, and had an especially fine time. We woke up to 13' of crystal clear water in the anchorage where, with the almost all sand bottom, it's the nicest swimming pool anchorage on the mainland. It starts getting bouncy in the swell after the wind dies at sunset each night, but I think it's well worth it especially when we have it all to ourselves. In addition to our school of 8" Pacific bumpers, as of yesterday afternoon we also have three to four 2 1/2' crevalle jacks on the prowl. John calls them "the boys," and sometimes they make quite a racket when they slam into the hull trying to get the smaller fish. It's amazing how much time we can spend just gazing into the water waiting for a glimpse of them as they pass by our hull.

After the morning radio nets we hopped into our inflatable double kayak and paddled out to some rocks on the ocean side of Isla Colorado to watch a blow hole. There was a long low swell running so we had to be careful not to get too close to the rocks, but other than that it was relatively calm two mile round trip. We paddled back to Nakia to get shoes so we could go ashore for a short walk. We hadn't been on Passavera before and it's quite a popular roosting area for boobies, frigates, pelicans, and gray headed vultures. We passed 10' from a booby which appeared to be nesting on the ground, and managed not to disturb her too much.

After an early lunch we spent some time reading, and then threw our snorkel gear into the dinghy to go for a ride while we left the generator running on Nakia to recharge the batteries. There was a blow hole near the mainland shore which was pretty spectacular even from a distance yesterday afternoon so we went there first for a closer look. Then we checked out a potential anchorage which we may try tomorrow in hopes that it might be better protected from the swell. Finally we stopped at one of the beaches over on Isla Colorado for some snorkeling but the visibility wasn't very good there. When we got too close to shore the sand was so stirred up that it was like snorkeling in fog. Out by the rocks and more exposed to the surf the organic matter in the water was so thick it seemed like we were snorkeling in a snowstorm. So there you have our "winter weather" report.

We had planned to go into a beach we'd visited last year, but at the last minute John suggested the one next door since it looked like it had a sandier bottom for walking in through the surf. After walking around the small sandy beach we heard strange bird noises coming from the trees above the rocky shoreline. We could see pelicans roosting, then what appeared to be nests, and then finally we made out the white, plucked turkey shapes of baby pelicans! Once we identified one, we could see that there were probably about a dozen in the area in various stages of development, but all looking completely helpless and awkward. What a wonderful and unexpected anniversary gift that was!

Linda and John

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Mad Gardener

7 January 2006
Ensenada Carrizal (Manzanillo area)

Paradise is still wonderful but not so perfect lately. After happily snorkeling for two days in a row, we jumped in the water for a third round and found ourselves face to face with jelly fish - lots of jelly fish. John doesn't think it's so terrible, but I have to admit it doesn't take many jelly fish to freak me out. So far I've come up with four different species. We identify one of them as "string of pearls" since it's the one that looks like a thin clear piece of line with small brownish dots at intervals along the line. These range anywhere from three inches to two feet long, and are especially frightening looking when you can see their short clear tentacles. The tentacles are only an inch or two long, but John says he's seen tiny fish trapped in them. The other really dangerous one (okay, so I've only seen one in this anchorage so far) is the translucent blue bubble on the surface with dark blue tentacles hanging down from it. Those are supposed to be really painful. There are two others which I don't know anything about. One is golf ball sized, completely clear, and looks kind of like a Chinese lantern. There are lots of these in the water here, so I must have brushed through them without any sting. The one I spotted this morning is something I first noticed when we left Barra de Navidad because there were tons of them out around the point there. It's like a clear nickel sized disc with something brownish in the center. The odd thing is that I've seen them in both single units and multiples attached like rope up to two feet long. I'm not sure I'll be snorkeling today.

Yesterday we took our friends, Roy and Marlene from Jellybean, for our third hike on the beautifully landscaped dirt roads to nowhere in Rancho Majagua. We tried a different fork in the road and once again didn't make it to the end before giving up and turning around. This road stayed right above the coast line headed North, and we turned around when we were almost even with Piedra Blanca. We were almost back to what we assume is the "main" road, possibly leading up to the highway, when a truck with three people in it came roaring up from the direction of the beach. The driver spotted us, screeched to a halt, and backed down to us at high speed. I waved and smiled, happy to finally find someone we could talk to about what this place was all about. But it was immediately evident that this was one pissed off Mexican. His English was limited but he spoke no Spanish to us (even though we were speaking a little to him to start off with). The gist of his tirade was, did we have a problem (which we later understood to mean, did we have a problem understanding that we were trespassing - not, was everything okay), this was private property, even without posted signs it was "logical" that it was private, he had better not see us there again, and "Go back to your boats!"

What left me shaking was that he was clearly so angry with us. This was the first time we'd ever encountered a local who wasn't friendly, even when giving us a gentle admonishment for whatever minor offense we'd committed. Needless to say we analyzed the incident as we hurried the rest of the way back to the beach. The group consensus was that a) he was just a gardener on a power trip, b) he was a caretaker who feared for his job because we had breached security, or c) he had been most worried about us stumbling upon an illegal activity of some sort way back in the woods that might have gotten us into even more trouble. The latter never would have occurred to me, but it seemed to be the most popular conclusion. Or maybe we've all seen too many movies.

Linda and John

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blog-able Day

4 January 2006
Ensenada Carrizal, Jalisco Coast (100 miles S of Puerto Vallarta)

Well looking at our last blog entry it seems we've been absent for a little too long. You'd think that with the holidays we'd have more than enough to write about but the fact is that we really don't have that much special happening.

That was, until yesterday. But I'll get to that in a minute.

We went from Tenacatita to Barra de Navidad on December 23rd after receiving some boat parts from our friends on Jellybean. They personally delivered them to us after carrying these parts all the way from La Paz. The parts had been carried from San Diego to La Paz by another cruiser and arrived after we left La Paz. That's how we get the things we can't get in Mexico - kind of like the Pony Express.

Anyway, we made it into the Barra de Navidad lagoon without running aground in the narrow muddy channel. Which, judging by the number of boats that ran aground while we were there (one of them twice), can be a very difficult thing to do. After getting settled we took care of the necessities first - laundry, vegetable shopping, and eating out - then took care of less important shopping later in the week.

We spent Christmas day at a potluck dinner with the rest of the cruisers in Barra de Navidad. Two turkeys, baked by a local restaurant, cost the group $60 USD but came stuffed Mexican style with potatoes, bread, chorrizo, olives and raisins. Each person had to chip in $2.50 to cover the price of the turkey, which was a little strange for a potluck, but we all got plenty to eat and drink so I guess it was worth it.

We ended up staying in Barra longer than we had intended and were there for New Year's Eve too. The town pulled out all the stops, complete with a 10 second fireworks show followed by numerous celebratory gun shots. We watched and listened from the comfort (and safety) of our bed.

We departed Barra for Santiago Bay on the 2nd of January and again managed to make it out the narrow channel without running aground. That's four transits without a problem. We started off motoring but eventually the wind built enough for us to set the drifter and the main and we sailed the rest of the way.

The first little sub-bay on entering Santiago Bay is call Ensenada Carrizal. We decided to check it out and what a jewel we found. I'm not sure why this place isn't more popular, maybe it's because there's absolutely nothing here. Which of course is exactly why we like it so much. There are no shore side discos blasting music until all hours. There are no beach vendors selling things you don't need. There are no jet skis, water skiers or banana boats. There is no night time brush burning to drop soot all over the decks. No dogs barking at night or roosters crowing before dawn. There's not even anything in the water - it's crystal clear. Heck, we could get used to this kind of nothing!

We have snorkeled each day since being here and have added three new species of fish to our 'seen it' list: Barber fish, Zebra Moray and Gold Rimmed Surgeon fish.

Yesterday I noticed something that looked like an empty lot on a hill over the bay and we took the dinghy ashore to investigate. It turns out there was probably supposed to be a private development (Rancho Majagua) here at one time but the only evidence are dirt roads (some complete with landscaping and curbs) and road signs. The signs point you to condominiums, lots for sale, and beaches but when we walk the roads they just end in a turn around. No buildings or other signs of development. The best thing is that these roads run through some pretty virgin forest. The flowers are in bloom everywhere and at times we would be walking through clouds of butterflies. Pretty cool. We spent three hours walking the roads today and the closest we came to another person was hearing a Mexican work crew working on some power lines across the valley.

All of this is quite out of the ordinary for the Mexican mainland - we're thinking about staying awhile.

John and Linda