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Thursday, March 16, 2006


16 March 2006

Wow, what a great sail from Tenacatita to Bahia Chamela! We got underway at o-dark-thirty as planned and we had Nakia gliding under main and jib 15 minutes after raising the anchor. In less than an hour we cleared the rocks at the main entrance to the bay and had the spinnaker set in plenty of time for John to run the Amigo net. I drove the whole time he was transmitting since the radio sends the autopilot into fits. We were on a course to take us off the coast in preparation for the freak southerly we were having to clock around as usual from the north in the afternoon. This gave me lots of room so all I had to do was steer and try not to hit any other boats (and there were about four or five out there with us). It was a blast!

The wind never stopped coming from the south so we had a brief debate about continuing north to Banderas Bay, but there's no reason for us to be there this early so we jibed the spinnaker and sailed back in towards Chamela. It really hurt not to take advantage of the prime weather window, since you never know if you're going to get another one as perfect again (especially when you know at least half a dozen other boats who are charging ahead)!

We finally doused the spinnaker after hitting seven knots pretty consistently and went in to the islands for shelter. We'd heard reports from the anchorage off town that the wind chop was getting a little high since it's wide open to the south. Island Girl followed us in and we ate lunch and hung out for a few hours until the wind died down enough for us to continue on to the main bay. It was a little rolly at first but had calmed down quite a bit by bedtime.

We went into town for fresh provisions yesterday morning and I had a brief swim around the boat in the afternoon. The water is very murky (I hate it when I can't see the bottom) but there are lots of birds, fish, and yesterday a pair of dolphins hung out around the anchorage all day, scratching themselves on Island Girl's rope anchor rode in the morning and leaping clear out of the water before sunset. Just like Flipper, except without all the annoying chatter. I was a little apprehensive about swimming with all the dolphin activity nearby, not to mention that it was only 73 degrees and we'd seen a big long worm swimming by the boat the evening we arrived. So I did a fast 10 laps around Nakia and lived to tell about it.

On our last two passages we've seen dolphins, a ray, a big bill fish leaping out of the water, and a shark swimming on the surface within a boat length of Nakia. The shark was about 3-4 feet from its dorsal to its tail fin, but we don't know what kind it was. The dolphins stayed with Nakia for longer than usual as we were sailing into Tenacatita Bay. I told John that was because the adults told the youngsters that here was a nice slow boat on which they could practice bow riding. John hasn't been fishing at all in ages, so no fish report.

There's a Polish man here named Janusz who runs a beach palapa called La Manuelita (which has a nice professional sign out front complete with a picture of a ketch). He and his Mexican wife both speak excellent English, serve delicious food, and he's begun to offer his services (medical assistance, gasoline, propane) to cruisers on VHF 22. Island Girl tried it yesterday by ordering three blocks of ice which were then delivered by panga fisherman on their way out fishing last night at 10 PM. The price was right, and Janusz could prove to be a great resource for the cruising community.

We'll probably be in Chamela for a few days hoping for another magical southerly to take us sailing again.

Linda and John

Monday, March 13, 2006


12 March 2006

We had a pleasant 15 mile sail from Barra de Navidad to Tenacatita on Thursday, although it took us six hours to get here. It was a close reach in light air for the first 10 miles with John hand-steering because of the 20 degree wind shifts, puffs, and swells. After we rounded the point to make the right hand turn into the bay, we set the spinnaker and had a great time doing 4-5 knots. There were several other boats making this short hop but the only ones sailing it were headed south. When we were settled into the anchorage we got lots of compliments on our red and white spinnaker and the fact that we came in and anchored under sail (main only). All that practice in the Sea of Cortez last summer has paid off nicely.

Since the "Mayor of Tenacatita" departed for the season several weeks ago, John declared Friday's traditional "Mayor's dinghy raft-up" to be "The Great People's Republic of Tenacatita Citizen's raft-up" and instead of holding it off of "Good Dog Beach" it was "Comrade Dog Beach." He used an interesting blend of communist and anarchist terms to announce it over the radio, but people came and had a good time, ignoring politics as usual. The Friday night dinghy raft-up here is a nice winter tradition which typically gets going when the more or less permanent population arrives and a "mayor" is drafted or volunteers. It's mostly a meet and greet position - kind of like a welcome wagon. The mayor anchors his dinghy off shore and all the other dinghies tie up together. Everyone brings their own drinks and some type of finger food to be passed around. It's a nice way to meet people from other boats. The especially cool outcome of this particular raft-up is that after we finished anchoring our dinghy the first couple to row over and tie up to us was John and Kathy from the Bristol Channel Cutter, Gertrud, whom we met up in Canada (see 7/20/2004 blog entry). Another one of those "small world" moments!

After a walk on the beach this afternoon I helped John scrub the bottom. He's been working on it every day since we left Barra and it's ready to take us on a fast passage north now. He says there are spots where the bottom paint is disappearing fast, and it will be a challenge to get through the summer before our haul out in San Carlos in September. But it's great exercise and we always come out of the water feeling that good kind of tired.

We're buddy boating with Christie, who's single handing on Island Girl, because her engine is a bit on the fritz and we're slow enough for her to keep up with sailing. We both plan to leave for Chamela on Tuesday assuming the wind lays down after tomorrow as forecasted. It's been unusually windy down this part of the coast (well, not for March according to Don on Summer Passage), and there are several boats here waiting it out to go north. It's been very comfortable here in the anchorage since the wind doesn't come up until around 1:00 in the afternoon, and later it makes for cool evenings which are so nice and cozy for sleeping.

The last time we were here a couple of friends reported catching dorado right from their boats in the anchorage! The water temperature is back up to around 78 now and no one appears to be catching anything, but it's just perfect for swimming. John hasn't gone out at all yet - I think he's waiting for the better fishing in the Sea, but it sure would be nice to eat dorado again!

Linda and John

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Inland Trip Notes (Part 1 of 5)

7 March 2006
Barra de Navidad

We're back on the boat in the lagoon after our first bus trip to some inland cities here in Mexico. These are some miscellaneous notes regarding the trip in general. The entire report contains more detail than most of you are interested in, but I'm writing it both for our benefit and for those cruisers who plan to make a similar trip.

We used "The Rough Guide to Mexico" (July, 2004 edition) and a January, 2006 trip report from S/V Secret O' Life as our references. As to be expected there were several errors and/or outdated info regarding hotels/restaurants in the Rough Guide (RG).

We made no reservations for bus travel or hotel stays. We did usually remember to check the bus schedules for our return leg when we arrived in a city, but for the most part we were just very lucky with our connections. I reviewed hotels listed in the RG, and had an order of preference based on price, description, and location before we arrived in each city.

The buses we took were all varying degrees of First class service. When we looked into Second class service it seemed to take about a third longer (e.g., a four hour trip on First would take six hours on Second), for only three to six dollars less per person. A "stewardess" gave us a snack (usually something a step below airline food) and our choice of a drink (bottle of water or can of soda) as we boarded each long distance bus. These are very comfortable buses with bathrooms and movies, think about the fancy tour busses you see running around popular tourist cities in the US. Much nicer than Greyhound. All the movies shown were dubbed in Spanish.

We tried to keep hotel costs to a minimum without staying in flea bags. Asking to see the room before committing to payment is very important! Rooms with a single bed ("matrimonial" - a small double-sized bed) were cheaper than those with two. The beds were usually hard, often with lumpy pillows. No room was without its faults but we planned to spend most of our time out touring and mostly wanted a place to sleep and shower. When we had TV it was never satellite (local broadcast stations in Spanish only). No room came with wash cloths, only one came with a hand towel, and all included a small bar of soap. We usually paid only one night at a time with the understanding that we might want to stay over another night and would let them know in the morning. This way we could move to another hotel if we wanted to.

All of our transactions were conducted in Spanish. I don't recall speaking English to locals during the trip.

The prices noted include tips where applicable.

We ate a lot of street food because we happen to like it and because it's inexpensive. I don't recall any particularly memorable meals during this trip probably because we deliberately kept them simple. I found the chilaquiles (usually one of my favorites) to be wetter than on the Baja which I didn't care for.

We were unprepared for the high elevations of Guadalajara and Guanajuato, and had some trouble with the extremely dry climate. We tired more easily, and woke up every morning with a sore throat. Next time I would take a saline nasal spray and eye drops. The good thing is that my hair wasn't frizzy and we never felt sticky.

We traveled with a normal sized ("school") backpack each, fanny packs, and my small canvas shopping bag. John could get away with shorts for the bus rides or during the day, but he always changed to slacks at night and I never wore anything but the latter. This was a wise move since no one except children wore shorts in any inland city.

Expenses Summary (six night/seven day trip for two; averaging the peso at 10.5 to the dollar):

Transportation (all buses): 2,023 pesos ($193)
Lodging (6 hotel nights): 1,950 pesos ($186)
Meals/Snacks/Drinks: 1,526 pesos ($145)
Total: 5,499 pesos ($524)
Approximate number of hours spent on bus travel (local and long distance): 24

Colima/Comala (Part 2 of 5)

Monday, 27 February 2006

After John finished the Amigo net Monday morning, Roy on Jellybean gave us a ride to the dinghy dock at the Sands Hotel and we walked to the Primera Plus bus station to catch a 10:15 AM bus to Manzanillo.

DEP Barra de Navidad 10:25 AM (Servicios Coordinados, 39p each)
ARR Manzanillo 11:40 AM
DEP Manzanillo 12:05 PM (Servicios Coordinados, 52p each)
ARR Colima 1:25 PM
Colima Central Terminal to Centro on local bus (4p each)

We walked a couple of blocks to what I thought was the Nunez hotel (Juarez 88), but which turned out to be the La Merced right next door. The latter appeared to be better maintained so we took Room #17 (220p/night) which was off of a small courtyard with tables for playing cards or writing post cards. We dropped our bags in the room and headed straight out for Comala.

Centro to Terminal Suburbana on local bus (4p each)
Transfer to Comala bus (6p each)

Comala is supposed to provide a better view of the two volcanos north of Colima, which we knew we weren't going to see at all because of a huge thunder storm over the mountains that day. Instead we went for the second best thing about Comala - free botanas (snacks) with your drink order at the restaurants next to the square. John had a margarita and a poncha (the local specialty), I had a limonada, and the snacks were enough to make a light meal (102p). The combination of it being a Monday and late siesta made it pretty quiet, but there were a few mariachi bands playing for other diners.

Same bus drill as above for the return trip to Colima.

We walked around the Centro area from Jardin Nunez to Jardin Libertad and tried our first churro rellenos at the pedestrian mall off of Madero (to the right) and across from the cathedral. This was a tube of churro (like a fried donut stick) filled with your choice of chocolate, caramel, or strawberry cream. Yum!

We really enjoyed our brief visit to Colima. It was a bigger city in some ways than we expected (complete with a Wal-Mart, two Sorianas, and a multiplex movie theater), but the historic center was charming with plenty of green spaces in which to relax and people watch. It was warmer than we thought it would be, even at night, and we slept with the ceiling fan on and only a sheet until very late. It's a nice place to break the trip to Guanajuato but if you're only going to spend one night, I'd skip the Comala day trip in favor of spending more time exploring Colima.

Colima to Guanajuato (Part 3 of 5)

Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Colima Centro to main bus terminal (4p each)
DEP Colima 9:05 AM (La Linea Plus, 142p each)
ARR Guadalajara 12:05 PM
DEP Guadalajara 12:25 PM (Primera Plus, 234p each)
ARR Guanajuato 4:30 PM
Local bus to Centro (4p each)

We sat on the left side of the bus out of Colima and got a good view of the volcanos in the clear skies. No snow on them this late in the winter, so it would be more scenic to make the trip in December or January (although then you would have very cold nights).

Note the 20 minute turn around time in Guadalajara. We didn't plan it, had no reservations and basically walked off the bus from Colima into the terminal and just started looking for the next first class bus to Guanajuato. Primera Plus had a bus leaving in 15 minutes so we bought our tickets and boarded the bus. Try that with an airline :-)

In Guanajuato we checked in to Casa Kloster (Calle de Alonso 32) for our first (and probably last) attempt at hostel style accommodations (with communal bathrooms). We had our own room (240p/night) and the place was clean and attractive with a pretty courtyard, but we wouldn't stay there again. It was very noisy with 20-something backpackers coming in at all hours of the night, and bath towels so thin that I accidentally ripped mine while drying my back!

We absolutely loved Guanajuato which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Zone in 1988. The bus ride through tunnels into town was reminiscent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and when we stepped off the bus I felt as if we were in Europe. The city was absolutely charming everywhere we turned. It was hard to keep walking because there were so many beautiful things to look at. The streets were narrow and winding; there were lots of visitors but it wasn't touristy at all. There were shady squares all over, and lots of road improvement projects in progress using small cubes of granite. The University students keep things lively and are probably the reason for the inexpensive (6p/hour) and plentiful internet cafes. Surprisingly, the pace of life was very hectic; people seemed in a big hurry to get wherever they were going which made walking on the narrow sidewalks difficult. But it was always easy to duck off into a shady square for a respite.

We had a simple meal at Pinguis (NE corner - at Allende - of Jardin de la Union, across from the top end of the row of expensive restaurants) that night. We asked for the specialty of the house and thought their "miner's enchiladas" were delicious and hearty (110p).

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

After the noisy night John woke up at 5 AM and went out to take pictures of the city while the streets were still dark and empty. We ate breakfast at Truco 7 (Truco 7, 80p), explored the Mercado, and wrapped up the morning with a very worthwhile visit to the Diego Rivera House/Museum/Gallery (15p each).

After lunch we moved to the Hostel Cantarranas (Cantarranas 50, almost hidden behind a small tree-shaded square half a block from the Teatro Principal; Room #104, 400p/night). This seemed like a splurge (large room, king size bed, TV, phone, two small sofas), but it was still noisy with Cal-Poly architecture/engineering students working on a project next door and getting in late at night. Maybe a room on the top floor would have been quieter, but we had to take what was available. There was a large roof top terrace with lounge chairs, and photos of all the rooms in the reception office.

John napped while I Skyped and did internet, then we climbed up to Pipilal for the view of the city just before sunset. We walked around the center of town grazing on street food. At 8:30 PM we accidentally hooked up with one of the student musician walking tours on the steps of the Teatro Juarez (we were attracted by the cheers of the young student group which had bought tickets). We followed them to their first stop for more music and story telling in Spanish, but it was all lost on us and we were beat so we gave up and called it a day.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

We returned to Pinguis for breakfast (91p), shopped, spent about an hour at the Alhondiga museum (if you've already seen plenty of pre-Columbian artifacts elsewhere, and aren't too interested in Colonial portraits and misc. items, you could give this a pass - although the building itself is interesting; 30p each), and took a local bus (4p each) to the Templo de San Cayetano de Valenciana church. This was very impressive, though as with most of the buildings, it's in serious need of restoration/cleaning. An alternative to these sights might have been a visit to the Ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera 2 km outside of town. This former colonial home turned museum, with its extensive restored gardens, sounds like a nice excursion. It was very hard to decide how to spend our limited time.

We went back to the Centro and ate a delicious, large cup of strawberries (17p) and some sort of empanada filled with cheese (28p for four) which we ate in nearby squares for our lunch. Did some internet, napped, and shopped. Had drinks and guacamole at La Tasca de la Paz (Plaza de la Paz 28, 110p) and ate a simple meal of soup for me and enchiladas for John at Truco 7 (77p) We were very curious about elaborate stages being set up in the city but they turned out to be for some World Road Rally. Unfortunately the sight lines at the main stage near the Jardin de la Union were blocked by the low trimmed trees making it hard to see the entertainment. By the time things finally got started it was late and we were tired from our long day so we never even saw any of the cars! Later we heard fireworks from our room and managed to run up to the rooftop in time to see a few of them fired off from up at the Pipila.

Guanajuato to Guadalajara (Part 4 of 5)

Friday, 3 March 2006

Guanajuato Centro to bus terminal (4p each)
DEP Guanajuato 8:45 AM (Primera Plus, 234p each)
ARR Guadalajara 12:40 PM
Camionera Nuevo to Centro (TUR bus - with A/C, 9p each)

We wanted to be sure we got on the morning bus out of Guanajuato so we woke up early and arrived at the bus terminal an hour before our departure time. On arriving in Guadalajara we checked out the Hamilton hotel (Madero 381) but this was dreary and too spartan even for us. The Posada San Rafael (Lopez Cotilla 619) was full but a nice tourist followed us out to the street and told us that Posada San Pablo (Madero 429) was run by the same people. I'd passed it by because the Rough Guide has it in the same price category as the Hamilton, but maybe this is a new ownership since it's now more expensive. We took Room #104 (330/night) off of a sunny courtyard. The floor in the room was a little dirty, but otherwise it was fine. While we were there several people came in having been referred there from the Posada San Rafael, so it might be a good idea to make an advance reservation if PSR is your first choice. The biggest pain about staying at PSP is that you're not given a key to the front door which is locked 24/7. You have to wait to be buzzed both in and out. Ninja, the white poodle, looks scruffy but she loves to be petted.

We ate a late lunch at La Dona ("Tacos El Pastor" in my Rough Guide, Juarez 424) which may have been a mistake, though it was very popular with locals. I had three tacos al pastor and a jamaica agua fresca, and John had torta ahogada al pastor (a roasted sandwich which is covered in au jus, he noted it was very spicy) and two beers (70p).

After a nap we spent the evening walking around. We visited the big Cathedral and main plazas in the nearby vicinity. I'm told there are nice parks farther to the NE which we didn't get around to seeing, but what struck us about Guadalajara (especially in comparison to the cities we had just seen) was the lack of green spaces in their shopping Centro. The plazas we saw were huge expanses of pavement with very few trees, and fountains and outdoor art instead of landscaping. After Guanajuato this city seemed noisy, dirty, and crowded, with the pedestrian areas crammed full of the cheap types of trinkets and pirated DVDs/CDs which we've seen at every small town market day.

By this time our batteries were running low and we were ready to return home. That night John's ahogada sandwich came back for a little visit and he had to get up to vomit a few times. By morning he was running a fever.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

John stayed in bed all day. I went out for Tylenol, a thermometer, and Gatorade for John, and meals for me; otherwise I stuck pretty close to our room. The Tylenol brought his fever down and he didn't throw up anymore, but he couldn't eat anything at all. We really aren't sure if it was the ahogada that didn't agree with him, or just a 24 hour bug.

Guadalajara to Barra de Navidad (Part 5 of 5)

Sunday, 5 March 2006

John felt well enough to make the trek to Tonola with me this morning so we caught a TUR bus (9p each) at 8:30 AM. Sunday happened to be market day which meant that there were literally acres of shopping for everything under the sun - food, kitsch, plants, ceramics, leather, linens, glassware, etc. One stop shopping! We made a relatively quick pass through it all - including a stop for brunch - and were out of there by 11:30 AM when it was starting to get too crowded to walk the narrow passes between the stalls (which were set up two deep outside the sidewalks of the shops). I highly recommend scheduling your Guadalajara stay to encompass either of the two market days in Tonola (Thursdays and Sundays), and save all your souvenir/gift shopping for here. We could have easily spent all day just walking up and down the market and never seen everything.

Since our TUR bus back to the Centro made a stop at the main bus terminal (where we needed to catch our bus to Barra de Navidad), we decided to have John get off there to buy our tickets for the 2 PM bus and rest, while I continued on to our hotel to get our backpacks. It's a good thing I kept our hotel receipt (which I had repeatedly eyed, thinking I might throw it away) because when I went to check out, the manager thought I owed her for another night. After a few minutes of her checking our file, me trying to understand what she was saying and then trying to explain that we had paid for two nights in advance, I produced the receipt and she was profusely apologetic for her mistake. We parted on good terms, I quickly walked the four blocks to the bus stop carrying all our gear, and I arrived at the bus station half an hour before our departure time where John was waiting with our tickets.

We took the mountain route from Guadalajara to Barra rather than going to Manzanillo first and then transferring. Although I felt car sick a couple of times from the winding roads, this was a much more scenic route through agave, sugar cane, corn, and melon fields, and several kinds of groves we were unable to identify. It's a slower route so I don't think John would choose to do it again, but the only other departure times on Primera Plus were 9 AM and 7 PM. I'm sure there were others we could have found, but with John sick and me getting there so late we weren't in a position to schlep around shopping for another bus.

DEP Guadalajara 2:05 PM (Primera Plus, 234p each)
Stop at Autlan 5:15 PM
Stop at La Huerta 6:35 PM
Stop at Melaque 7:20 PM
ARR Barra de Navidad 7:30 PM
Panga to Nakia (25p total)

Home Sweet Home!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Inland trip complete

We've just returned from a 7 day, 6 night trip to Colima, Guanajuato and Guadalajara and, while Linda's writing the trip report (to be started any day now, really), here are some pictures from the trip.

Linda sitting outside our room in Colima

A view of the courtyard of our hotel in Colima

This is one of seven bus terminal buildings in Guadalajara. It has the feeling of an airport terminal. (Guadalajara)

A late evening shot of the hills over Guanajuato.

Here's what Guanajuato looks like at 5 AM. When John can't sleep he gets up and walks around town taking pictures. By 6 AM the place was too busy to be standing in the street. (Guanajuato)

An early morning shot of one of the tunnels in Guanajuato. River water used to be diverted through these before they were converted to roadways.

Another 5 AM picture of Guanajuato. Instead of using cobble stones to pave the streets they use square cut granite rocks which are arranged in patterns. (Guanajuato)

The outside of Mercado Hidalgo. (Guanajuato)

The Teatro Juarez, a favorite hangout for the University students. (Guanajuato)

View from the Pipila. The Temple of San Diego in the foreground with the Jardin Union in the background. The trees in the Jardin are a kind of ficus which are cut high enough to walk under, creating a very shady park. (Guanajuato)

A view from the Pipila. Low center is the basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. Upper right is the Temple of the Compania. Upper left is the University of Guanajuato. (Guanajuato)

Here's a picture of the roof-top terrace of our hotel in Guanajuato. The white building in the center of the picture is the Hotel Cantarranas. (Guanajuato)

Another view from the Pipila. Center left is the Museum Alhondiga. I'm not sure what the two domes in the foreground are. (Guanajuato)

A couple of pooches watch the evening traffic on the city streets below. (Guanajuato)

Linda really loved the potted garden on the balconies of this house. (Guanajuato)

The Basilica at La Valenciana