Wednesday, 19 December 2012

VAKASA (vah-KAH-sah) verb, def: To roam, wander or meander - Nigerian dialect

Well, we have certainly lived up to our name.  Since we left the dock in Victoria in mid May, we have travelled almost 8,000 kms.  That’s a lot of water passing under our keels.  So it’s not too surprising that we have been very happy to just stay put in Banderas Bay for the past couple weeks.  But….we have not been idle….

La Cruz – the favoured anchorage in Banderas Bay.  We have spent a number of nights here and although it can be little bumpy and the water is a little murky, it’s been fun.  The Sunday Market is fabulous, with the best tamales we’ve ever had, and the fish market is amazing.  Kathy and Anja can be seen swimming from boat to boat in the anchorage most days during their 3 pm exercise hour.

Paradise Village – in Nuevo Vallarta, is an incredible marina connected to a 5 star resort with 4 pools, shopping mall, Starbucks, ping pong tables…you name it, they got it. As its nickname (the Velvet Prison) suggests, once you arrive it’s hard to leave and we’ve spent too many very comfortable days here.  Unfortunately, as it always is when you tie up to a dock, there have been lots of chores to do as well as relaxing by the pool and drinking banana daiquiris.

Nuevo Vallarta – home of Walmart… groceries, wine and cervezas.  Need I say more?

Sayulita – the quaintest little village we have found in Mexico thus far and Bryn and Tanner’s home away from home.  We missed the bus getting there and accepted a ride from a random Mexican (completely ignoring the “never get into a stranger’s car” rule) who turned out to be a very nice policeman (thank goodness) whose wife is a Canadian.  Small world.  Being taken out for lunch at Fish Tacos was a real treat….thanks Bryn and Tanner.

Tres Marietas – we took Bryn and Lea, Tanner and his family (Nancy, Lyle and Brianne) and friend, Louis, out to Tres Marietas, 3 small islands a couple hours NW of La Cruz.  Snorkeling, kayaking, and beachcombing were excellent despite the fact that a number of the crew were feeling under the weather (from a bumpy ride or too much “fun” the night before?).  Visited by whales and dolphins, much to everyone’s delight, and had a great sail back.

Highlights of the last couple weeks:

Beaching Vakasa to install a new depth sounder was a scary but exciting adventure.  There’s just something wrong about driving your boat up onto the sand, but we took advantage of a 4 ft tide and grounded the boat for almost 24 hrs so Tony could cut a hole in the hull and insert a new sensor.  At the same time, we cleaned the hulls and props, scraped off some barnacles that were freeloading on the hull, and did some waxing on….waxing off.  Freakiest part was listening to Vakasa groan and moan as she slowly pulled her keels out of the sand as the morning high tide lifted her.

The arrival of a very tired but happy Lea was definitely a high.  After a 21 hour flight itinerary with an 8 hour layover in Houston - where she got zero sleep because the fire alarm was going off every 20 mins - she was collected at the PV airport no worse for the wear.  It’s so great to have her onboard and to catch up.  She even brought us a Christmas tree!

La Cruz anchorage

Sun rising.....we don't see that very often!

Lea arrives with a Christmas tree in her luggage

Market day at La Cruz

Quanto questa? 

La Cruz anchorage from the beach

Lunch at Ya Ya's after the market...Silvers, Lamonts, and Louis

Paradise Village Marina

One of 4 pools at the Velvet Prison

Gotta love the crocodile slide!

Sailors all...headed to Tres Marietas

I'm going snorkeling......but I really don't like fish!

Brianne and Tanner head out to explore some caves and arches

Sleeping it off

Shore leave...poor Hoop looks a little overloaded

Our girls.....

An island of caves and arches

The crew heads overland

Made it to the top

Vakasa at anchor at Tres Marietas

A local hermit crab makes Lea homesick for Perogy and The General

OMG....we're beached

Cleaning the hulls was never so fun

How come she gets to just lie around when there's so much work to be done?

Just plain weird!

There is still lots to do in Banderas Bay and we’ll be here until the first week of January and Lea’s departure for home.  We wish everyone the very best this Christmas Season.  Feliz Navidad!


Monday, 3 December 2012

Loco Touristico a Mexicano Autentico

We heaved a big sigh of relief as we left the tourist craziness of Cabo behind and began our search for real Mexico

A mere two days and two nights of sailing took us to Isla Isabella, a small island 242 nm southeast of Baja.  As we approached the island, just after sunrise, we were struck by the fact that it was covered by some weird grey mist.  Closer observation showed that the “mist” had wings and there were literally hundreds of thousands of birds circling this tiny piece of land out in the middle of the ocean.  We loved the incredible snorkelling (bazillions of species of tropical fish), hiking with the two young girls who were acting as park wardens, and bird watching.  This was genuine Mexico and it was hard to leave.

Next we headed due east and ran into Bahia de Metechan and the city of San Blas.  Here, we went to town and amused a whole bunch of Mexicans with our poor Spanish.  We spent several hours shopping and drinking cervezas and only saw one other gringo besides our boating buddies, Anja and Bram.  We also enjoyed an awesome panga trip up the Rio Tovara, where we visited a crocodile sanctuary and swam in the fresh water spring, which was protected from the crocs by nothing but a very flimsy looking fence.  Fortunately, no appendages were nibbled on.

Our third, “real Mexico” anchorage was in Chacala, a small town 3—4 hours north of Puerto Vallarta.  We’re not sure if you can call a place that serves Lattes and Americanos authentic Mexico (muy delicioso), but the town was very pretty, full of Mexican families on vacation and the mango margaritas sure tasted authentic!  Here we had the best surprise when Bryn and Tanner showed up on their way south to the surf town of Sayulita.  Kathy was reading in the cockpit when she saw a surfer dude and dudette paddling their boards out to Vakasa.  Picture Forrest Gump jumping off his shrimp boat when he saw Lietenant Dan.......

And now we're sitting in Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, otherwise known as the Velvet Prison.  Definitely not authentic Mexico, but we're not complaining as it's a 5 star resort and it is only costing us $28/night.  After three weeks on the pick, unlimited fresh water and power, diverse grocery stores and resort facilities are looking pretty darn good.  In fact, we'll have to finish this conversation later as the pool is calling!

As the sun rises we can see Isla Isabella, a national park and bird sanctuary, in the distance

Vakasa, Tarpan, and this bird festooned fishing boat share the anchorage

Anja and Kathy must dive on the anchors to make sure they're not wrapped around rocks

One way for a poor wee black doggy to stay cool 

Nesting Frigate birds

Fishing village at Isla Isabella

Another attemp at getting Rizzo to luck....Los Monas (the Dolls) in the background

Patricia and Michelle take our gang for a guided hike around Isla Isabella

The Blue Footed Boobie

Male Frigate showing off for his girlfriend

"What say the Bells of San Blas to the ships that southward pass?"  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Two salty sailors on shore leave in San Blas

Our jungle tour panga driver

We spotted turtles

.....and iguanas

...and a couple of crocodiles in the wild....fortunately, these two monsters were in the sanctuary!

The beautiful little town of Chacala...a favourite so far, and home of the award winning Mango Margaritas!

Chacala sunset

Now this is what we call a swim up bar!

PS:  For those interested in a short zoology lesson.  We learnt the following, freakish fact about how the Frigate bird gets it's main source of food.  Several of them gang up on a  Boobie, often harassing it to the extent of grabbing its tail feathers and giving it a mighty shake.  Where upon the poor Boobie gets so scared that it upchucks its quickly eaten fish dinner and one of the Frigates swoops down and gobbles up the barf.  Mother Nature run amuck!

PSS: arrive in less than 2 weeks.  Yeah!!!!! 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

We Made It To Cabo!

This trip has been one of self discovery.  We have learnt that we can stay up most of the night, for several nights in a row, and still make reasonable decisions.  We have learnt that in strong winds and rough seas we can depend on our boat to look after us.  We have learnt that in light winds we can reset and trim the sails to get that extra knot of speed.  And most of all......we have learnt that we make a great team.

On Oct 29th we joined up with the other 140 sailboats participating in the Baja Ha Ha rally which "races" (a very loose term in this case) from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas.  To say it was "an experience of a lifetime" seems pretty cliché, but that is simply the best way to describe it.

Leg 1:  
San Diego to Bahia de Tortugas, 338 nautical miles
Depart SD on Mon, Oct 29th at 11:00 am; arrive in BT on Thurs, Nov 1 at 5 pm
We affirmed our racing intentions early on by being the only boat in the fleet to stop mid race and lay over in beautiful Isla Bonito for 18 hours.  The up side of this was an afternoon of  searching for the elusive elephant seals (no luck finding them, but we did see lots and lots of sea lions), a wonderful fresh tuna dinner (instead of the frozen dinners we eat while sailing at night) and 10 hours of continuous sleep (instead of 2-3 hour naps when we're not on night watch) .  The down side was that when we eventually arrived in Bahia de Tortugas, we were last in our division.  Well, I guess we're just not racers at heart!  Much to our surprise, because we have never had much luck fishing, we caught 3 fish on this leg.....a dorado and 2 tuna......delicious and still lots in the freezer!

Leg 2:
Bahia de Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria, 223 nautical miles
Depart BT on Sat, Nov 3 at 8:00 am; arrive in BSM on Monday, Nov 5 at 2:30 am
Continuing in the same mode, we watched the fleet depart without us while we lounged in the cockpit with our morning coffee.  Having already decided that we weren't going to worry about sailing all the way (you get a special prize if you do this, which is a good thing because trying to sail when there's no wind is just plain frustrating......but several boats did manage to do it) we revved up the engines and caught up in pretty short order.  About an hour from our destination we were asked to lead in a couple of boats that had lost their navigation equipment and were concerned about entering the anchorage in the dark without it.  We felt like a mother hen as we negotiated our way into the bay with 3 little chicks following safely behind.  Coming into an anchorage and dropping the hook in the pitch black is a creepy and scary thing, not to be repeated!

Leg 3:
Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas, 172 nautical miles
Depart BSM on Wed, Nov 7 at 7:30 am; arrive CSL on Thurs, Nov 8 at 11:00 am
At this point, with 5 overnighters since San Diego, we are very TIRED!  So tired, in fact, that Tony had to do a couple U-turns during his night shift while his weary brain tried to figure out which way the approaching fish boats were actually going! Around dinner time we crossed the Tropic of Cancer and celebrated by taking turns jumping overboard and being dragged behind Vakasa in the 80 degree water.  Another Bucket List moment for Kathy.  We tied up at the marina in Cabo around noon and celebrated with margaritas on Scott Free.  Although we had the best intentions of dancing the night away in a local nightclub with the rest of the fleet, we fell into bed at 8:30 pm and slept for 14 hours!

It's hot (apparently hotter than usual) and beautiful in Cabo.  We are getting a few chores done while at the marina.....including having a wonderful señora do our laundry and 3 young men wash and polish Vakasa.  Now that's how we like to do chores! Tomorrow we will move out into the bay for a few days at anchor.  Now that we've finally arrived here, we have absolutely no idea of where we're going next, so the guide books must come out.

We'll let you know.....

Waiting for the starting gun in San Diego Harbour

By God, he can catch fish!

Sunset over the Mexican Pacific

Yellow Fin Tuna....good eats

Don't trust your chart plotter in Mexico! That black triangle is Vakasa, and according to it, we're anchored on land!

Once at anchor there is always a party to go to

The fleet at anchor in Bahia Santa Maria

A Mexican band rocking out Leonard Skynard...gotta love it!

Crossing over the Tropic of Cancer in style

Had to talk him into it, but it looks like he's having fun!

Another fleet member flying their spinnaker as the sun goes down...or was it coming up?

Our first sight of civilization around Cabo is a resort that friends Teresa and Mark took us to a few years ago

On the home stretch and passing in front of the famous Cabo arch

Our wonderful cleaning crew