Loading Map

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


You may be asking, why did John have to take Nakia out to Punta de Mita on November 18, and why was Linda in such a hurry to take the bus out there the next morning? The answer is we had another social engagement on our calendar involving a casita in Sayulita, about 10 miles NE of Punta de Mita's northern flank. The rental house is owned by cruising friends who had invited us to be their guests if we ever wanted to take a break from Nakia. So John organized a get together with Eric and Sherrell (S/V Sarana), who would drive their Toyota Dolphin camper down from Mazatlan, and Stan and MJ (SolCasa), who would drive up from Santiago Bay and give us a ride. We were leaving Nakia anchored at Punta de Mita so that Gary and Barb (S/V Hoorah) could feed Ziggy for us while we were away. They have two cats of their own and have watched Z. for us before.

After I got home Saturday morning I repacked my things for a four night get away, and Hoorah came over for a refresher briefing on the care and feeding of the beast. John ferried me and all of our vacation stuff (ukulele, computer, novel, snorkel gear, playing cards, freshly ground coffee, Tahitian rum, and Mexican snacks - salty dried peas, chickpeas, and fava beans) to shore where I settled in at El Coral restaurant. He returned to Nakia to raise the dinghy out of the water, and called Hoorah to hitch a ride to shore with them. We bought lunch for our cat sitters and were soon joined by Stan and MJ, who were happy to take a lunch break themselves before hitting the road again.

Yay, road trip! Well, for John and me it was only a 15 minute drive to a town we had sailed past exactly one week earlier. Sayulita is known as an artsy surf town full of tourists and it lived up to that reputation and then some. It may have been even busier that usual because we had inadvertently scheduled our stay over a holiday weekend celebrating the 1910 Dia de Revolucion. There was a local parade Sunday morning with kids shouting "Viva Zapata," "Viva Pancho Villa," "Viva La Revolucion," and "Viva Mexico!" They even staged mock battles complete with cannon fire, gun shots, and wounded revolutionaries being carried off by stretcher bearers.

We ate and drank ourselves silly with the following high (and low) lights. Buddha Mar, where we had a long wait for an average meal. Apparently they had recently changed the menu/kitchen from sushi to basic Mexican, and we were the only ones seated in the large dining area. As we waited patiently for our food to arrive, the very young, very blonde waitress periodically checked to make sure we were doing okay, punctuating every sentence she uttered with, "Awesome!" We were never offered chips and salsa or anything to make up for the delay. Choco Banana was always packed for breakfast but our food arrived lukewarm, was nothing special, and we had to ask for tortillas to replace the non-descript white bread which was served with the meal. Rollie's on the other hand served up a substantial and piping hot breakfast, and Rollie himself threw in a free pancake plate to share for "dessert." Everyone else thought Rollie's gringo shtick was a little over the top, but I thought the thin custardy pancakes were well worth a return visit. Panino's provided us with the most beautiful, heavy loaves of fresh bread I've seen anywhere in Latin America, and they didn't last long when we devoured them with Sherrell's homemade humus. MJ made a green salad and cooked up a pot of spaghetti for a dinner at home, which turned into two when we ate leftovers on our last night. We ate gorditas in the street at Yeikame where they served up a simple meal with unusual twists. The gorditas were made with blue corn meal and each sealed maize pocket held a choice of unique ingredients. I can't remember the extensive list but there were lots of vegetarian options like spinach and mushrooms along with the more common beans and cheese, potatoes, and meats. This was also the only place we ate where we actually had to heed the waitress's warning about the picante salsas. Finally, we were in Mexico!

Besides eating, our activities included walks through town and lots of card playing. We dedicated one day to the traditional beach resort pastime of lounging in chairs under umbrellas provided by the beach restaurant we patronized. We chose Pablo's El Capitan where all we had to do was eat and drink to pay for the luxury of digging our toes into the sand and repeating "No, gracias" to every beach vendor that walked by. The next day we worked off all the beach beers and ceviche with a nice long hike out the north end of town and through the woods paralleling the beach. We saw enormous spiders and a weird quad-winged dragonfly that flew like a helicopter. We were lucky that each translucent wing tip was dotted with yellow, or we probably wouldn't have been able to see it. As it hovered from spider web to spider web we weren't sure if it was plucking out spiders or bugs caught in the webs for its snacks. Our quiet walk was also rewarded with bird sightings! John and I are rarely able to spot any birds at all when we're out walking, but this time we saw orioles, a group of four black-throated magpie jays (big birds with crested heads and long, long tails), and something resembling a Trogon. Eric even managed to get a good zoom lens shot of the latter sitting in a tree. We were exulting over our good fortune as we returned to the main road. Our excitement turned to dismay as we silently passed a tour guide about to lead a gringo family on four ATV quads over the same track we had just exited. But as Stan gently pointed out to me, they were there to get a noisy, bumpy thrill ride, not to look at bugs and birds.

This is already way too long, but I can't close without relating the highlight of our mini-vacation which was - a baby iguana in our toilet! Yes, Sunday morning in the casita John lifted the toilet seat and lid up together and began shouting that we had to come see for ourselves or we would never believe him. We took pictures and then someone reached in to try and grab him. To our complete surprise the iguana turned tail and shot back into the bowels of the toilet. OMG! Needless to say for the next 24 hours John and I very gingerly lifted the lid up and made a point of turning on the bathroom light at night. On Monday we told the housekeeper about our uninvited guest and showed her our pictures so she wouldn't think we were pulling her leg. While we were out, her solution was to drape a hand towel into the bowl and over the rim to give the iguana a surface on which to climb out. Then she cornered it in the shower and caught it in a towel to release it with its bigger brothers in the iguana tree outside the house. Of course she had her own pictures to show us that it came out alive and well!

Finally I'll close with a big thank you to Susan and Elba for their gift to us of a stay in their lovely Sayulita casita. Not only was it a nice break from life aboard Nakia, but it was a great place for a reunion of good friends from afar!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Mills Birthday Week

What has Nakia been up to, you may be asking? Well, it's been a busy November, but it's time to get the blog caught up.

On November 12 we left Chacala for the mostly motoring, 44 nautical mile, nine hour trip to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Banderas Bay (near Puerto Vallarta). At the same time, Mills College friends, Amy and Carole, were winging their way from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta for a week's vacation at the Melia resort in Marina Vallarta. It was a special trip to celebrate Carole's 49th birthday and Amy's 50th this month.

Almost a year ago they sent me a message telling me about their plans and asking us if we could be there to help celebrate their milestone birthdays. We were in Hawaii and had already been thinking long and hard about returning to Mexico to visit Stan and MJ and to see if we still felt as strongly about Mexico as we did when we left there in 2008 (we loved it). Amy and her daughter flew to Mazatlan to surprise me for my 50th birthday in 2007 (wow, was it really that long ago?!), so this news clinched our decision to sail to Mexico from Hawaii.

34 days of sailing across the Pacific and almost nine months later Nakia was in Puerto Vallarta. And the next day Wendy arrived from SF to make it even more of an event. I hadn't seen Carole or Wendy since before John and I left California in 2004, and we all had to keep pinching ourselves to believe that we had managed to regroup in PV of all places.

In between the important activities of shopping, eating, and relaxing in the warm air, we spent the next week catching up on news of each other's families, work, and life aboard Nakia. We also shared some really memorable events, the first of which was Carole's birthday dinner at La Palapa on the 13th. What a beautiful setting in which to enjoy a gourmet meal.

On Monday we were off to Punta de Mita where Jose, aka "Picudo," took us out to Las Marietas in his panga for snorkeling and a view of the blue-footed boobies nesting on the islands (we even saw a couple of fluffy white babies). After our morning boat trip we were hungry for the pescado especial at El Dorado beach restaurant at Punta de Mita. Well, only I ordered that heart attack, but it was muy delicioso. After lunch Amy decided to go for one last little dip. As she was picking her way through the rocky shallow water she stepped on a stingray which leaped clear out of the water. Wendy was the only one of us on shore to witness the ray jumping. The rest of us were relieved to hear squeals of shock and not pain, as Amy had dodged a huge bullet and not been stung. John can attest to the fact that a ray sting is incredibly painful and we're glad Amy was spared that vacation souvenir.

We then took a local bus back to La Cruz where John made two dinghy trips to load everyone on board Nakia for a sail to Marina Vallarta. Amy had warned us that she can get deathly seasick (but not on power boats), and I was almost sick worrying about her on slow poke Nakia! But everyone enjoyed the first couple of hours of fast (for us) sailing. When the late afternoon breeze began to die, and Amy was looking a little pensive, John fired up the motor to smooth out the motion and she bounced right back. We entered the marina just after sunset and tied up in our reserved slip for the next four nights.

The next morning was filled with massages and pool lounging for the vacationers while I got some much needed boat chores done. Later we all got together (minus John) for some girl shopping on the newly renovated Malecon which is now a beautiful pedestrian mall. On Wednesday they took a Los Arcos boat tour while John and I got to work on a boat project. He spent a few hours at the top of the mast and I fetched tools and pulled and released lines as needed.

Wendy had an afternoon return flight home on Thursday, and we all went shopping on Isla Cuale. John gave advice for price negotiating and helped fend off over eager vendors. Carole and Wendy returned to the condo for lunch before her flight, but Amy stayed with us to find an authentic Mexican restaurant. On the advice of a friendly dulceria (sweets) shop keeper, John found a comida corrida right in front of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church. This is a little place with a set lunch menu from which you choose a main course. It's pretty basic, but is what the locals eat. Amy even had the authentic experience of a waiter spilling soup on her leg as he tried to impress her with how many bowls and plates he could carry!

Friday was our last day together and we three remaining girls had a reservation with Vallarta Adventures for their "Outdoor Adventure." But first we had to say goodbye to John and Ziggy as he was moving Nakia from Marina Vallarta out to Punta de Mita that morning. I had my overnight things and would be spending that night in luxury at the Melia.

We joined our afternoon tour at La Maritima, the cruise ship pier. We boarded a huge zodiac boat with about two dozen passengers for the fast smooth ride across the bay to Boca de Tomatlan. Before we boarded the huge Mercedes Benz expedition trucks for the climb into the jungle, we were surprised to see a 30ish foot sailboat with its port side buried in the sand on the beach. It didn't look like it had been there long and we wondered if it could be salvaged. Always a sobering sight, especially for anyone who's boat is their home.

The truck ride was bumpy but we were never airborne off our seats so it wasn't that bad. When we arrived at the base camp we were fitted out with the zip line gear and led to mules for a 20 minute ride up a steep dirt road into the jungle. At the top of this road we met our guides and were given a briefing for how to ride the zip lines. After hearing all about how not to do it, I was getting pretty nervous. Carole and Amy had both done zip lines before, but not like these where you had the option of braking with one heavily gloved hand. The problem was in knowing how much to brake. Too much and you would stop yourself midway across. Too little and you would go flying into the landing platform. (As it turned out you never really needed to brake at all because the guide on the platform controlled a rope to help stop you.)

This was truly an adventure and we three had a phenomenal time on each and every leg of the course. There were long flying rides over small canyons, a vertical rappel alongside a waterfall, a full dunking drop into a fresh water pool, a free fall vertical rappel, and a couple of fun "bridges" where we could mug for the professional photographer. Back at base camp we bought the photo CDs and ate and drank before loading up into the trucks for the descent. But wait - there was one last surprise stop at a tequila distillery where we learned how to drink small shots of silver, gold, anejo, kahlua, and almond tequila (yes, one of each!). Carole liked it so much that she bought three bottles as souvenirs.

It was late when we finally returned to the Melia for showers and a one-week-early 50th birthday dinner for Amy. I hadn't brought suitable attire for the reservations only restaurant so the girls dressed me like a doll in a fuchsia dress with matching sandals of Carole's and a pretty sweater of Amy's for our last evening together.

The next morning we said goodbye before breakfast as I had to take a bus to return to Nakia early. It was the end of a memorable week spent with my best friends from college, and one I will always treasure. I'm so happy we were able to be in the right place at the right time - not always an easy feat for a cruising sailboat!

{GMST}20|39.100|N|105|15.000|W|Mills Birthday Week|Entrance to Puerto Vallarta Harbor{GEND}

Friday, November 11, 2011

San Blas to Chacala

We ran out of our good streak of sailing wind yesterday and mostly motored the 24 nautical miles to Chacala. Motor trips are usually pretty tedious but this time we were rewarded with our first sea turtle and whale sightings of the season. One lazy sea turtle didn't even move until the auto pilot had taken us right alongside him and he didn't scoot away until we had him amidships. Vertical whale spouts were clearly visible along the coastline and we patiently watched one slowly coming closer to the boat. Finally we had two good looks at the top of its back as it came up for a few breaths about a quarter of a mile away from us. Spouts are a common sight and don't always result in an animal sighting, so they're interesting but often disappointing as they disappear on the horizon. But it's still always a thrill to get a clear look at any part of these magnificent creatures as they make their way through the ocean around us.

We were also passed by a few fishing boats, most of which were out of Mazatlan. One came up so close behind us that I got the camera out as a gentle warning that I was recording the encounter. To my surprise as they passed us I could see that they were taking our picture and flashing the peace sign and waving for my camera. I always feel guilty for letting tales of fishing boats ramming sailboats outweigh the far more prevalent accounts of aid and brotherhood among boats of all nations. It never occurred to me that they would find us picturesque enough to divert to, especially when we weren't even properly sailing!

Five hours after leaving San Blas we tucked into the north corner of the beach and set both a bow and a stern anchor to keep our bow pointed into the swell. [Note to 2012 Puddle Jumpers: This is a good place to practice your stern anchoring technique for your stay in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva.] Chacala is a quiet little vacation spot with brightly painted, lovely homes and a small sandy beach lined with thatched palapa restaurants. We fondly remember our previous short stay years ago when we were anchored much farther out from the protection of the northern point. Since we will not be likely to get such a perfect anchoring spot later in the season when there will be many more boats here, we have decided to stay an extra night so that we can go ashore for a visit today.



Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Isabela to San Blas

We're anchored in the river estuary of San Blas for the first time ever. We've always avoided this stop because it's known for terrible no-see-ums, but we were low on provisions and decided to brave it anyway. We departed Isla Isabela at sunrise Tuesday and had a very gentle downwind sail all the way here. I guess I should mention that we covered 41 nautical miles in nine and a half hours. Our previous trip from Mazatlan to Isabela was 89 nm in 18 hours, which includes the hour and a half that we drifted waiting for the sun to rise.

We enjoyed our stay at Isabela and after a morning nap we took advantage of some of the clearest water in Mexico to go for a snorkel. We swam over to the area in between two striking rock formations which jut out of the water and found good numbers of all the usual suspects. The most notable aspect of the snorkel was how much bigger than normal the fish were. Even the Moorish Idols were good-sized.

Above water the bird life was fantastic. The island was covered in a dense thicket of some kind of sturdy leafy bush on which birds perched. Blue-footed boobies took cover in the shade of the thicket at the top of the beach. But most of the birds soared overhead, probably keeping cool in the thermals since they didn't appear to be doing any fishing. A couple of male frigates had inflated their red pouches and I saw a juvenile practice plucking a nesting stick from the water's surface. But I think we were too early for the actual nesting season.

Our stay was made more comfortable by the deployment of our rocker stopper and by the knowledge that our anchor was firmly buried in a sandy part of the bottom. It's a forbidding looking anchorage with waves breaking on rocks to either side and the alternative anchorage, while calmer, has an even rockier bottom which has been known to "swallow" anchors. Two boats arrived later in the afternoon but after taking a look at both anchorages they elected to continue on their separate ways, one to Mazatlan and one to San Blas. We're happy that we decided to give it a try since it turned out to be much nicer than its initial imposing impression.

Unfortunately I don't think we can say the same about San Blas. Thanks to coordinates from another boat we had a safe crossing of the bar entrance and are anchored in a shallow river across from the marina. But the mangroves are host to no-see-ums which bite day and night whether you are imprisoned below in your heavily screened boat, or sitting in the town square. Panga fishermen roar up and down the river all day and all night, so it isn't what you could call peaceful. We will spend another night here to make our exit on a high tide tomorrow morning, bound for Chacala, about 20 miles away.

John has been fishing on our passages but has only come up with black skipjack in the very warm waters (around 85 degrees). He often has them up to the boat and off the hook before Ziggy has a chance to get out to the cockpit to see what's going on. Poor Z is then left sniffing the air, wondering what happened to his dinner.


{GMST}21|32.566|N|105|17.721|W|San Blas|San Blas{GEND}

Monday, November 07, 2011

Isla Isabela

We departed Stone Island in Mazatlan at 12:45 PM on Sunday and we had such a good sail that we had to heave to at 0400 this morning to wait for it to get light enough to approach the island and anchor. It's a bit rolly, but we're anchored in a patch of sand on the SE side of the island. The beach landing looks steep and rough so we'll probably just rest up on the boat and hope we don't take too many guano hits during our stay. Did I forget to mention that the island is a bird rookery and the skies are black with frigates and booby birds? Ziggy is going to have an interesting time!


{GMST}21|50.876|N|105|52.756|W|Isla Isabela|Isla Isabela{GEND}

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Stone Island, Mazatlan

Well, let's see if I remember how to do this! We have actually departed Marina Mazatlan and are on the hook at the little anchorage just outside the Port of Mazatlan. We decided to come here rather than anchor in the Old Harbor, thinking that it might be quieter. But we don't have Wi-Fi here, so please send any email to our Sailmail address and not our gmail or yahoo accounts.

The two hour motor trip this morning was rolly (from beam to beam) so poor Ziggy threw up his breakfast after we passed Deer Island. Fortunately I saw the signs of imminent upchuck, and I managed to catch most of it in a rag in my hand. He drank some water after we dropped anchor and is now well into his afternoon nap. I can't wait to see his reaction when he wakes up later today and realizes we're not tied up to the dock anymore.

Unfortunately John is wishing we'd stayed in the marina because he has taken a turn for the worse with his head cold, and it's now migrated to his chest. In the slip he'd have plenty of electricity to watch movies and TV, not to mention plenty of fresh water for showers, and an air conditioned cruiser's lounge for surfing the web. There's a south wind blowing today and we are back to hot and humid temperatures, but we're pointed into the breeze and the water temperature is down to 83 degrees.

Life is good hanging on the hook for free!