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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Barra de Navidad

The number of anchored boats here in the Barra lagoon has doubled from the dozen that were here when we arrived two weeks ago. Over the past few days they've been scooting in the narrow channel and picking their way carefully through shallow water (literally 8-12' - or less, if a boat strays out of bounds) to attend the annual Christmas cruiser's potluck dinner at the Sands Hotel. For a per person cost of 50 pesos we will have deep-fried turkeys served up in a tropical outdoor seating area accompanied by delicious treats pulled from the depths of hard to reach lockers, or searched for high and low in Mexican stores. Yes, you can find canned pumpkin, yams, and cranberry sauce - if you look hard enough.

With Ziggy and Nakia once again under the watchful eyes of Barb and Gary on S/V Hoorah, we took an hour bus ride to spend a long weekend in Bahia Santiago for a Posada party at SolCasa. It was a sleep deprived "lost" weekend full of good things like homemade lasagna, my first "Cubano" torta (a grilled sandwich chock full of just about everything - including hot dogs - which threatened to fall apart in my hands), and reunions with the wonderful people we met at the 4-day PATA spay/neuter clinic last March. The Posada is an annual Christmas party and get-together for all the volunteers who work tirelessly to provide free spay/neuter clinics for dogs and cats throughout neighborhoods in the greater Manzanillo area (http://www.patamanzanillo.com - a donation would make a great gift for that animal lover in your life!). Stan and MJ provide the venue and drinks and everyone else brings food for about 35 people. An interesting cultural divide is when the American and Canadian ex-pats arrive at 7 PM bearing desserts and appetizers, and the Mexican locals arrive at 9:30 with the main courses. Then all of the former have left by midnight and the last of the latter have to be told, "It's 4:30 AM; party's over!" before they'll call it a night.

Oh, and pinatas (sorry, I can't type the cedilla that should go under that "n"). One of the locals donated five pinatas and John and I offered to fill them as our contribution to the party. MJ and I grabbed our backpacks and walked to the nearest dulceria (candy and party supply shop). Assuming there would be few if any kids at the party, I figured that the pinatas were mostly just for show and a little adult hilarity, and that there would be tons of candy left over that we would be forced to polish off. So I chose mostly fruit and caramel flavored hard candies, deliberately avoiding all of the "enchilada" (spicy) flavored ones. John and I inadvertently tried some of the those our first year in Mexico (think mango enchilada) and have never acquired a taste for them. MJ tried to tell me that the locals would sweep up all the candy and would really prefer the enchilada variety but I didn't her take her seriously (are you kidding?). John insisted that small toys should go in the pinatas so we bought a few of those as well. Well, someone should just hand the locals the money and let them choose the candy because those pinatas were all for them and we heard later that no one ever puts toys or so many fruit candies in them! They were doing full body sprawls on the floor to get as much candy as they could sweep up (for their nieces and nephews...). It was all in fun and everyone was grateful to Stan and MJ for holding the party under the thatched palapa roof of the beautiful new addition to SolCasa.

Other than our brief road trip we've been enjoying the peace and tranquility of life in the lagoon. Sunrises here are some of my favorite in all of Mexico because they are filled with birds! Huge flocks of white Great Egrets fly out of their nighttime roosts somewhere in among the western mangroves, and then over the lagoon - and the anchored boats - to perch in the northern mangroves, warming up in the rising sun before feeding on the muddy flats surrounding the lagoon at low tide. They are joined by smaller flocks of Snowy Egrets, both White and White-Faced Ibis (the former all white with black wing tips and the latter a solid dark brownish color), and the usual Great Blue Heron, Cormorant, Tern, Magnificent Frigatebird, Pelican, and (later in the day) Black Vulture. There are Black Skimmers, Osprey, a few American Oystercatchers, and we even had a Kingfisher land on our wind indicator. There are Roseate Spoonbills whose bright color I can just make out through the binoculars on the far reaches of the lagoon. The only thing we haven't seen yet this year is the Mexican Eagle which was usually also looking for fish on the sand flats of the canals. Unfortunately Ziggy has managed to catch two swallows which made the mistake of landing on Nakia. I've put red Christmas garland on the bow pulpit and forward lifelines in an attempt to discourage them from their favorite roosting area (as well as to help Nakia look festive over the holidays!).

The small beach resort town of Barra is full of souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as Canadian and U.S. license plates. It and the larger neighboring town of Melaque are favorites of the snowbirds, and many beautiful second homes abound here. There was some damage to ocean view restaurants on the narrow bay-front peninsula from hurricane Jova, but we're told that much of it was from large ocean swells rolling in and washing away the spit before then. We appreciate conveniences here such as water delivery by panga from Maria's tienda, and the Taxi Aquatico panga service which, for 25 pesos per person round trip, saves us from having to use our dinghy when the NW winds blast through the lagoon in the afternoons. Yesterday was our first big blow since we arrived (a high of 20 knots was recorded by a boat in the very protected marina, so we imagine it was even higher out here in the lagoon) and by some miracle none of the newly arrived boats dragged anchor. Going aground and/or dragging anchor are time honored traditions of the Barra lagoon although, knock on wood, Nakia has yet to experience either.

We wish everyone Feliz Navidad and Prospero Nuevo Ano, and thank those of you who have emailed us holiday updates of your own!

Linda (and John and Ziggy too)

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