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Monday, March 28, 2011

PATA Manzanillo 5-day clinic

A PATA Manzanillo 5-day free spay/neuter clinic for dogs and cats was held March 17-21 (http://www.patamanzanillo.com). This is one of two big clinics held each year (the other one is in November) and John and I were fortunate enough to be here to volunteer our help. The clinic turned out to be especially successful with a total of 298 animals over the 5-day period and a record breaking 77 animals for a one day total on Saturday. Ten volunteer veterinarians rotated through the days with some coming from as far away as Texas, Guadalajara, and Colima to round out the local group. Other volunteer labor was provided by local nationals, full time ex-pats, and snowbirds from Canada and the U.S.

John and I did a little of several things including cleaning crates and cages, helping MJ sterilize surgical instruments, and attending to animals in the Recovery area. John was especially helpful lifting the (sedated) big dogs from Surgery to Recovery or into crates as they began to come out of the anesthesia. Being a cat person I hung out with those little guys who took a long time to wake up. A few were dirty and covered in fleas but most were in better shape than the dogs. Dogs in Recovery were given a spa treatment of tick removal and matted hair trims, so that they usually looked better than when they first arrived. Recovery animals were monitored for temperature, gum color, and pulse to ensure there were no complications coming out of surgery.

The days began at 0800 (or earlier for some) while John and I usually arrived off the bus at 0900. We'd try to leave in time to get back to the boat for a swim and a bath before dark, and one day we had to leave early because of a Carnaval parade which was scheduled to close the main road. We made two exceptions to our "back before dark" rule. First for the final day of the clinic and second for the thank you dinner for volunteers the following night. We made it out through the surf just fine because we left the dinghy on a well-lit part of the beach (where no one bothered it during the day, over a holiday weekend!).

It felt strange to be on our feet and "working" long days after so much time off doing our own thing. We went home each night feeling tired but extremely satisfied. It was especially gratifying when an owner came to pick up an animal and recognized our efforts with a handshake and a "muchas gracias" accompanied by a big smile. Kudos to all the many people who made this event a success and who will continue to work to improve the lives of local cats and dogs.

Photos from the clinic may be viewed at:



Colima overnight

On March 14 Stan and MJ picked us up in their van for an overnight to Colima. Ziggy stayed on Nakia under the capable supervision of Tony and Shannon, S/V Sweetie, anchored nearby. Stan drove the back roads, both to save about $10 USD in toll fees and to give us a slower, more scenic route. We enjoyed seeing the big brick ovens which are themselves used to fire bricks. We even saw a man cutting bricks out of prepared mud just off the side of the road. There were lagoons, salt ponds, and orchards galore of mangoes, limes, tamarind, papaya, and who knows what else.

Our first stop was a museum in the little village of Nogueras. As we pulled into the parking lot it occurred to us that it was Monday and the museum might well be closed. To our surprise it was open and we happily bought our tickets and entered the first exhibit. We had the place mostly to ourselves for awhile and then tour busses arrived with passengers from a cruise ship we'd noticed in the port of Manzanillo. For once we were very happy to be inundated with tourists because we were certain that was the only reason the museum was open for us that day.

We saw a nice exhibit of artwork by Alejandro Rangel, who might be best known in the U.S. for the Christmas cards he created for UNICEF in the late 1950s. The museum has been created out of his former hacienda, and there are other displays of local artifacts he collected, in particular the "Colima Dogs" and other figures. The museum displays are absolutely beautiful with English translations. After seeing what was on offer in the gift shops we took a stroll through the gardens learning the Spanish names for some of the trees, plants and herbs growing there. Stan even hopped a short fence to rescue a turtle flipped on its back in the hot sun.


Then it was on to Comala for a much needed visit to the botaneros for their famed feast of snacks which are included with drinks. Taquitos, tostadas (coaster sized, wafer thin, flat chips of corn meal) spread with guacamole or ceviche, and mini soft tacos were just what we needed by mid-afternoon. After sampling some of the local "ponche" we went off in search of a few bottles to take home. Ponche is a drink made of cane alcohol with flavors like walnut, coffee, peanut, coconut, and pomegranate to name a few. We liked the thick creamy coffee flavor the best and think it will go well in iced coffee.

The rest of our stay included a stroll through the gift shops off of Colima's main square (jardin), more eating and drinking, a visit to the museum off the jardin, and finally a trip to Sam's Club for supplies. It was a great getaway with good friends to see something more than just the coast for a change!

Photos from the trip may be viewed at:



Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pacific Track

I finally put some of our old tracks into our navigation software (OpenCPN). It made for such an interesting picture I thought I'd share it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Santiago Bay

Some of you may be wondering how we've been spending our time now that we are finally back in Mexico again. First and foremost we've been enjoying spending time with our good friends, Stan and MJ, who live full time in Santiago. We've also renewed cruising friendships with several boats, and met people on boats new to Mexico since we left. A lot of time is spent at Ramada El Rey which is one of the restaurants lining the beach here at La Boquita. The cruisers have regular bocci ball games on the sand followed by Mexican Train dominoes and drinks at El Rey. We don't usually join the games, but are happy to partake in the refreshment portion of the ritual. Another semi-weekly event is an outing to La K'Melia which is a botanero (I think I have that right; from the root "botana" which is "snack") complete with live entertainment. Stan and MJ introduced us to this concept before we left Mexico. These are bar/restaurant establishments in which you order drinks and are then served a variety of appetizers at no additional charge. The snacks are usually things like simple tacos, ceviche, taquitos, etc. and they bring you enough to make a meal of it. The one we went to gets started at around 4 PM and the entertainment wrapped up by 6 PM (the day we went it was a band and singers). We don't quite understand how they stay in business, but it's a fun concept.

Having ordered a full set of poker chips while we were in Hawaii, John organized a Friday poker game at El Rey. Eight people played Texas Hold 'Em for 50 pesos each and the game lasted a good 2-3 hours with several changes of fortune amongst the players. We had a lovely surprise when the ultimate winner kindly donated her winnings to PATA Manzanillo (http://www.PATAManzanillo.com), the animal welfare non-profit that Stan and MJ spearheaded after their move here.

On Sunday we all attended a 3 PM futbol (soccer) game played in the local stadium between our local Picudos and a team from nearby Colima. Stan was organizing cruiser attendance for these games before we left and now, between the cruisers and the local ex-pat community, I think the gringos almost out-numbered the locals. It's a fun chance to yell and shout, although we miss the vendor who used to sell messy tacos. Now we bring our own snacks, but you can still see 10 year old boys delivering cups of beer to their dads in the stands. We won this game 1-0 after lots of blood and sweat. Everyone is so welcoming and one of the trainers even shook our hands and thanked us for coming.

The more mundane side to our lives involves re-learning how to do surf landings and take-offs in the dinghy. After two wet take-offs we've taken to going into the mouth of the small river and landing in the protected water there. The downside to this method is that the tide can be very strong, creating rapids at the entrance especially on an ebb tide when the surf is breaking. I will most likely never take the dinghy out by myself again after I over confidently returned to the beach ahead of John with clean laundry and promptly filled the dinghy with about six inches of sandy saltwater. It isn't nearly as easy as John makes it look, especially since he has me hop in first and I had no idea that he was continuing to push us out farther before he climbs in.

So I dried all the salty carpets, towels and blankets and made a second trip to re-wash it all a few days later. I've since made another trip with all of our salty passage clothes. I take what I can carry stuffed in my backpack and one plastic carryall, which is what will just fit into a medium sized front loader. I opt for auto-servicio (do-it-myself) and no dryer, and I carry it all back to dry on the boat. It's a dinghy ride to the beach, half hour walk to the bus stop, and a 6 peso bus ride to Santiago proper (I think the peso is about 12 to 1 at the moment). Reverse to go home. John keeps trying to get me to take a 60 peso each way cab ride (and MJ keeps insisting I can do it at their house!), but I kind of like getting the exercise. Actually I'm probably done with that and will do the light nylon things by hand and drop the rest off at a fluff and fold place from now on. It was just those first few things that needed special handling.

John has kept busy fixing things like our anchor windlass, battery charger, an old backup PC which he wants to give away, the pressure water pump (surprisingly yukky), and servicing (cleaning) the hand pump for our head (double yuk!). He's decided he's not going to tear apart the bilge pump to try to fix it, but will just buy a new one. As original equipment on the boat he thinks he can retire that item! He's also made two visits to the water truck which has a regular schedule to the beach restaurants, and has bought a total of 12 five-gallon jugs of water to fill Nakia's tanks.

We didn't notice any particular behavior changes in Ziggy other than his joy at being able to run from down in the cabin, up the companionway steps, across the cockpit, and up the main sheet onto the boom. He also wants to jump in every dinghy that stops by for a visit and is remarkably polite to people he doesn't know (i.e., he tolerates holding and petting). We've already had two visits from dolphins, and there are numerous pelicans, frigate birds, booby birds, terns, gulls, and herons all after the bait fish that frequent the murky greenish brown water. With 24-hour access to all the sights, smells, and sounds we think he's a pretty happy cat.

As are we!