Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Dreaded Surf Dinghy Landing

Nothing about our impending sailing expedition to Mexico seemed quite as scary as landing the dinghy in the surf.  People told horror stories about it.  We dreaded the day that we would actually have to do it ourselves.

So when we hit the first anchorage that had surf at the beach we were pretty darn nervous.  On day 1 we sat in the cockpit with the binoculars glued to our faces and watched the 3 or 4 dinghies that had the courage to head into shore.  We decided that we really didn’t have to go to the beach that day.  On day 2 we figured we’d take a closer look and hopped into our dinghy and meandered along parallel to the beach; just checking it out.  Geez….those waves were BIG!  We nonchalantly headed back to Vakasa, pretending that we’d never really intended to go into the beach in the first place.  By day 3, Rizzo was giving us that “you’d better take me to shore, or else” look, so we grimly decided that it was time.

So here’s roughly how it goes:

Step 1:  Put down the dinghy wheels.  OK….no problem…..we have great big, amazing dinghy wheels that should do the trick.  In fact, they’re so big and heavy that the poor dinghy won’t plane with the 3 of us in it any more.

Step 2:  Attach the kill switch to Tony’s wrist so that if the dinghy flips, hopefully he’ll be thrown free and the engine will cut out so the prop doesn’t rip Kathy to shreds.

Step 3:   Watch the waves and wait for a lull, then go like stink.  OK…..GO NOW… WAIT….no GO….GO, GO, GO….OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!

Step 4:  Ride the back of a wave and then leap out of the dinghy as soon as it gets shallow enough.  Try not to fall flat on our faces.

Step 5:  Keep the dinghy facing straight into the beach so it won’t turn sideways to the waves and get rolled. Keep it ahead of the wave behind so the stern doesn’t get swamped and/or the bow doesn’t plough into the beach and flip it.

Step 6:  Run like hell, pulling the boat (which only ways a thousand pounds or so) out of the water; like a couple of commandos (despite that fact that neither of our bodies does “commando” any more!).

Step 7:  Drag the boat (which now weighs 2 thousand pounds because it’s full of water) up the beach 50 or 60 feet, leading to severe back strain (Tony) and shoulder tendinitis (Kathy).

Step 8:  Relax….go have a couple cervezas at the palapa bar because we’ve earned it and getting into the beach was the easy part.  Launching the dinghy is even harder!

We are now exploring the anchorages south of Banderas Bay as we make our way to Barre de Navidad and Manzanillo to meet up with friends, Teresa and Mark for a 10 day visit.  We have found some truly beautiful spots on this leg of the journey, with long, golden beaches that go on forever and, you guessed it, lots of surf!  Cruisers who have been here season after season say that the surf this year is much smaller than usual (our condolences to Bryn and Tanner) and we certainly aren't unhappy about that.  Even though the surf is said to be relatively small, we still get a huge spurt of adrenalin and a good case of nerves when it’s time to…..GO! GO! GO!  

The town of Yelapa.  Home to waves, waterfalls and Bulli the Bully

A beautiful cobblestone road along the river was the start of the trail up to the largest waterfall

A rent-a-mule stable seen on the way

A big rainstorm the day before made the swimming hole pretty brown looking, but it was still fabulous

A pooped Lea after hiking 4 hours in the heat.  She was on an airplane for home the next day

A patriotic sunset in Ipala, 50 nm south of Banderas Bay

OK....we didn't take this photo....but we swear this was the same humpback that breached only 200 ft from Vakasa

22 whale sightings in 2 days and this was my best shot!

Our dinghy, Hoop, named after the African Hoopoe bird that symbolizes a "faithful friend and follower"

Hoop on the beach in Chamela...Vakasa at anchor in the background

Lunch in town at Chamela

Rizzo meets some locals

La Manzanilla.....a very quaint town in Bahia Tenacatita

Some southerlies stir up the anchorage in Tenacatita

These dolphins have been swimming around the boat for 3 days and this is as good as we can do.  They are laughing at us!

Social hour on the beach....bocce ball, volley ball, dominoes, cervezas.......

The kill switch is clipped to the driver's wrist so that the prop stops spinning when he falls (I mean, "jumps") out

Doesn't look that big, but it can do some damage!

Fortunately this isn't us!  It's all in the timing and can get rough if you misjudge things!

Heading back out is usually a very wet experience

A quick "Rizzo Rinse" on the way back to Vakasa

We are safely launched, wheels back up, and heading home...yup, a little wet!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Top Ten For Christmas In Puerto Vallarta

Christmas in Mexico kind of snuck up on us.  Although there are Nativity Scenes dotted around every town and the occasional Christmas Carol to be heard, the season doesn't quite club you over the head here as it does at home.  So, this year it seemed to be more about just being together and enjoying ourselves.

We made a pact that there would be no Christmas presents; instead we would put the money towards a family activity.  Everyone broke the rule to some degree (OK…we’re human), but we were pretty moderate in our present giving and were able to enjoy an incredible Boxing Day adventure with the left over “Christmas Budget”  and thanks to Nana’s wonderful gift to the family.

We've had so many great times in the past couple weeks that it wasn’t easy to come up with the following list of our Top Ten……..

The Silvers’ Top 10 Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta During Christmas:
  1. Rent a hotel room at Paradise Village - with AC, TV, and 2 (yes, count them…..TWO) wonderful showers this was a real hit with both sailors and RV’ers. Even the short two-day stay rejuvenated us.
  2. Christmas shop in Old Town Puerto Vallarta - the Malecon buskers were pretty incredible and taste testing in the Tequila Shops was indeed tasty.
  3. Kayak through the estuary at Nuevo Vallarta - in search of the giant Green Iguanas which for some reason are actually orange, not green at all…..go figure.
  4. Have a mega Ping Pong tournament - won in overtime by Tanner and followed by 5 rounds of Ring-a-Ping…Anja’s crazy game that makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.
  5. Sneak You-Know-Who into the not so pet friendly hotel room – a stealth mission that Tony still hasn't quite recovered from.
  6. Have Huevos Rancheros for Christmas brunch - we all decided that they “smacked down” our usual Eggs Benedict…a new tradition is formed.
  7. Attempt to cook a traditional turkey dinner in a foreign country - grocery shopping for ingredients was a challenge and we ended up with some new tastes and discoveries.  What the hell is Camote anyways?  Looks like a turnip, but definitely doesn’t taste like a turnip!
  8. Go Extreme Zip-lining - OMG…..should we really be going this fast!!!! Our adventure also included ATV driving, a Unimog off-road trip, and a ridiculously fast waterslide down the mountain side.  Thanks again, Nana!
  9. Take a Panga ride to the Hidden Beach at Tres Marietas – although we mistook the name for meaning “secret” instead of “hidden”, we soon discovered that at least 100 other people knew about this beach!  Despite the crowd it was amazing.
  10. Watch the Banderas Bay New Year’s Eve fireworks – 20 resorts around the bay were setting off    fireworks for at least 30 mins.  An incredible display of pyrotechnics and we had the best seat in town while anchored in the bay off of La Cruz. 
A Malecon busker in Old Town PV....he was one hot Santa!

An Angel on Kathy's shoulder

Lea in search of Iguanas

Hmmmm.....anyone for a dip?

Spotted this Papa Iguana

View from our 2 bed/2 bath hotel room....pretty sweet

Don't tell anyone that there's a dog in that pack!

Tony breaks the rules and gives Kathy a spa gift certificate for Christmas....gotta love that man!

Tanner and Lea stop teasing each other long enough to make Huevos Rancheros for brunch

Simply delicious!

A couple of goofy Elves

The stuffing was superb....a little cumin and chilli adds some Mexican flavour

An angel tops our purple tree

Anja, Bram and Willy help devour the turkey

Too much turkey dinner and Tanner is out for the count

Duelling zip lines

Polaris ATVs are FUN to drive

"Big Daddy" zip line...1.2 km long, going at least 50 km/hr, head first...... adrenaline rush!

Tarpan heads out of Paradise Marina and we are going to miss them

 Kathy's happy, pampered feet with a Christmas pedicure

 Happy boaters

Tony, the panga driver, takes us into a pretty tight cave

Going in search of the Hidden Beach, Tres Marietas

Kathy, Lea, Bryn and Tony in the Hidden Beach with a "few" of their friends

A bowl with a hole punched in the top and a white sand beach in the bottom

Accessed by swimming thru a 50 ft tunnel with only a couple feet overhead

Banderas Bay New Year's Eve fireworks

As we look back on this Christmas we realize that we have had the very best of times.  Although we missed many of our family members and friends, we were fortunate to have Bryn, Lea and Tanner join us.  The only sad moment was watching our friends, Anja, Bram and Willy untie from the dock and head south without us.  We won’t be catching up with them again this trip but have vowed to make our way to Holland in the next few years for a visit.  Hasta luega Tarpan.

So Happy New Years and may this be a year of happiness and good fortune for all!