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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays from Nuevo Vallarta

20 degrees 41.385 minutes North
105 degrees 17.525 minutes West

So we managed to get a spot on the pilings in Marina Nuevo Vallarta where we spent some time two years ago for the Banderas Bay Regatta when John crewed on Air Power. If we have to be tied up anywhere in Vallarta, this is ideal because it's only $8 a night. There's no electricity or water and we have to use the dinghy to get to the marina docks to go ashore, but the shower/bathrooms are very clean, the harbor master is very accommodating, and best of all Ziggy can't get off the boat so we don't have to keep close tabs on him. We came in late on Saturday after waiting for a very low tide to pass so we could cross the shallow bar entrance into Nuevo Vallarta. This is also the site of Paradise Village where we spent some time our first two winters in Mexico. Boy, have things changed there. You're now required to carry a special Paradise Village photo ID with you to access their property. Guards will stop you to check your ID if you try to cross any of their perimeters. This means we're not welcome to land our dinghy at the dock outside the Vallarta Yacht Club (which means no access to the mall there), nor can we get to the beach by walking through the Paradise Village resort. If we visit friends on boats in Paradise, we wouldn't be allowed to walk around the property with them either. Welcome to Paradise...

We had a good trip from Mazatlan, with a stop in Chacala rather than San Blas. We had originally planned to finally visit San Blas but negative reports of interference from the local self-appointed cruiser representative once again deterred us from stopping there. Instead we joined old friends for our first visit to Chacala, which was absolutely charming. We all anchored bow and stern to keep us pointed into the swell, and if you had a rocker stopper, you were wise to use it. It was a fun stop and we could have easily stayed longer. We played bocci ball on the beach and enjoyed the best shrimp empanadas in Mexico at the Las Brisas beach palapa (look for the three big flags on the roof), thanks to the expert guidance of Ray and Jayne on Adios. We also finally broke down and bought two small Huichol yarn pieces for much less than you would pay in a higher end place like La Cruz.

After two nights in Chacala we motored for awhile and then had an easy spinnaker run down to Punta de Mita on the NW edge of Banderas Bay. We spent three nights there visiting our friends Ralph and Nicole, and their three month old daughter, Delfina Marina, at Mita'z Pizza. They sell whole wheat baguettes that are out of this world, and they'll also deliver fresh pizzas to the dinghy landing (talk about pizza to go!). We also made a bus trip from there to meet up with V'ger in La Cruz, and to see the new marina there. It was good to visit with Casey and Annie, but very sobering to see what the new marina has done to the landscape of La Cruz. If you ever need an example of the risks associated with buying property in Mexico, just take a look at all the formerly ocean view/beach front homes that are now for sale because of new high rise development on land fill right in front of them. The little beach in front of Ana Bananas where we used to land our dinghies is now buried under dirt fill, beyond which is the huge new marina for mega yachts. At current rates of about .75/foot (which will rise to .90/foot when the marina is completed), it's way beyond the average full time cruiser's budget, but is perfect for people who want to leave their boats in Mexico while they go back to the States to work (to pay for the marina, to keep the boat, that they wish they could sail, while they have to work, to pay for the marina...). There are still lots of boats anchored outside the marina, but no place to land your dinghy other than at the marina (for $3/day), or by braving a steep scramble up the seawall inside the harbor. It all seems very sad to us, and we just hope that some of the big bucks being passed around are making it down to the locals who need it most.

We've been delighted by all the wonders of mainland cruising that we forget about while we're on the Baja side of the Sea: humpback whales flapping their fins and flukes, and babies shooting straight out of the water; turtles passing a boat length away; butterflies and bird song; speckled dolphins streaking past our bow wave; palm trees and gorgeous vegetation up sloping hills; the smell of smoke from burning (garbage, or all those palm leaves they have to trim?). Okay, that last one isn't a favorite, but the rest makes for a nice change of pace.

Banderas Bay was an unscheduled stop for us as we had planned to be in Bahia Santiago by now. We discovered a diesel fuel smell which is present when we run the engine, and John is in the process of troubleshooting the problem. It isn't incapacitating but we decided to investigate it while we can stay in a place with lots of service options (and with inexpensive moorage). We will be out of here as soon as the part is fixed, heading south again.

Happy holidays to all our friends and family!

Linda and John

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