We have nearly travelled the length of Mexico now… just a few hundred more miles to El Salvador. Here’s what we’ve been up to….
We left Mazatlan at daybreak for an overnight run to Chacala, a small village in a small but beautiful bay. For the first time, things are starting to look more tropical. Until now, we have only seen the dry deserty hills of Baja and the Sea of Cortez, so the lush jungle, palm trees and flowers is a new treat. We dinghied to shore and explored the town on foot. Although its a small village, because it was still Semana Santa, the beaches were quite crowded.
We stayed one night and when we tried to pull up our anchor the next morning, we realized it had become tangled in a fisherman’s net. Elan had seen the young boy (he was maybe ten years old) dropping what we assumed was just a crab pot near our bow the night before. Elan figured that even if a crab pot got wound around the anchor chain it could be unwound in the morning, but a net is a little tricker.With the tide changes, current, etc during the night, the two became quite a tangled mess. I managed to carefully untangle it with no damage to anchor or net, and we were off on an uneventful motorsail to La Cruz.
We anchored outside of the small town of La Cruz, which has quite a large sailor/cruiser population. Its a slow-paced, community in Banderas Bay, a short drive/sail from the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta. We met up with a lady named “Zee” who Elan had chatted with on Cruisers Forum, who has been docked at the marina for about a month. She gave us a quick walking tour of town, and then parked us all down at Ana Banana’s Restaurant/Bar for dinner, margaritas, and a great live band. We spent the whole evening hanging out, chatting with other cruisers, dancing and we even wrote our boat names on the wall above the bar- the owner was the one who gave us the sharpie, so why not!!.
The next morning we zipped across the bay to a marina in Nueva Vallarta. This is only the second time we have stayed at a marina on our whole trip down, so we decided to treat ourselves to hot showers, shore power, and fresh water to wash the boat down (it needed a bath badly, everything including ourselves and the dog are pretty well salt encrusted by now 🙂 ). We stayed at Paradise Village, which gave us access to the pools, hottubs, restaurants, and tigers. Yes, there are tigers in a pen by the lobby – what marina would be complete without them?
We rented a couple of scooters for 24hrs, and had a blast riding all over the area. We rode out to the surf town of Sayulita, out to Punta Mita, through some jungly areas and into the city of Puerto Vallarta. Had I known that Punta Mita has a great little surf beach perfect for beginners like me, I would have camped out there for a few more days.
Driving in traffic was interesting to say the least, but we made it though unscathed, with the exception of Elan’s helmet which went flying off his head as we drove down the road, and found its way under a bus and into a ditch. I scooped up the pieces, we tied it back on to Elan’s head with his sunglasses string and went merrily on our way (better than nothing, right?!) We took advantage of having transportation to buy some 8 foot stainless steel tubing for some boat projects, and strapped those on to the scooter too. Im sure we were a sight to see.
Later on, we took Solent’s dinghy up the estuary looking for crocodiles, but didn’t find any. As I hopped out of the dinghy to go to dinner at Fajita Republic (yummy fajita place) I accidentally dropped my camera into the bilge of the dinghy…. its been soaking in rice to dry out for over a week now, but its not looking good. I think we will soon be in the market for a new WATERPROOF camera. Bummer.
We also took advantage of dock space and fresh water at the marina to work on a few boat projects: Elan fixed our boom/mainsail which had stripped out of the mast, and I added our new vinyl graphics to the bow (Thanks Jake & Deja!).
We motored overnight to a pretty bay called Tenacatita, and for the first time since leaving San Diego, the sun rose on a hazy day, and we have had a few more since then too. I think its mostly just the moisture in the air. We have been wearing full foul weather gear at night- not because its cold- but because everything gets positively drenched with the nighttime dew.
Just after dawn, as I was finishing up my night shift, I tossed a handline and fish lure out, just to help break up the boredom and was thrilled to catch our first non-bonito fish (we are tired of eating bonito!). I originally thought it was a yellow fin tuna because of its bright yellow tail and fins, but after a little research, I think it was actually a Crevelle Jack… a relative of the bonito. Ugh. I made fresh sushi with him, but the meat is tough and a very dark red. But he was pretty, and it was a nice change of pace anyway.
At Tenacatita, we took the dinghy up yet another estuary in search of crocs, and still didn’t find any. 🙁 However it was a pretty drive.
Barra de Navidad
The next day, we made the short day hop to Barra de Navidad, a shallow inland bay with a fun beach town. On our way into the anchorage, we had to cross a sand bar (hence the name BARRA de Navidad), and, for the first time ever on our boat, we ran aground. Thankfully, it was just soft silty muck bottom, and we were going very slow, but we were wedged in pretty well. A nice teenage kid from another boat zipped over in his dinghy and helped push us off. He reminded me of my cousin Greg when he was that age, running around with any boat he could get his hands on…. and by the way…. HAPPY ENGAGEMENT Greg and Heather! Couldn’t be happier for you two!!!
Isla Grande by Ixtapa
On our way south, we saw SO many sea turtles lazily floating on the surface of the water. They seemed just as undisturbed by us motoring by as they were by the birds sitting on their backs. There are 5 or 6 different types of turtles in this area, and we are sure we saw at least two.
Just before arriving at Isla Grande, right outside of Ixtapa, we drove through hoards and hoards of glowing pink jellyfish. Not as charming as the turtles, especially after our stinging jellyfish experience at Ensenada Grande. These were small, about 3 inches each and if I had to guess, Id say there was at least one jellyfish per cube foot of water as deep, and as far as we could see for about 45 minutes. Swim anyone?
We had a rocky rolly night at Isla Grande, and decided to move on with out making the long dinghy ride to shore to explore the city of Ixtapa.
Our overnight trip to Zihuatenejo was eventful to say the least. Off and on since Cabo, we have had engine overheating problems, and have tried everything we can think of to fix them; we removed the thermostat, we cleaned and flushed the raw water heat exchanger, installed a new temp gauge, and installed a new temp sender, but low and behold, we were still overheating. Suspicious that maybe the temp gauge and sender we had previously installed weren’t communicating properly, (we bought them separately) we bought a matched set gauge and sender in La Paz. Midway through our passage, Elan decided to kill the engine and make the swap right out in the middle of the ocean. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as we had the engine compartment open and torn apart, that a freighter would come bearing down on us. Im sure my panicked announcements of “6mi away!…. 4mi away!…. 2mi away!” weren’t helping Elan’s stress level, but after putting up a sail to luff in the non-existent breeze, it was the only thing I could think to do. 🙂 Elan expertly installed the new sender and gauge in a matter of minutes, but when I went to turn the key in the ignition to fire up and get out of dodge, the entire key assembly pulled out of the wall and crumbled in my hand. I couldn’t believe our luck. The freighter ended up passing about .5 miles off our bow, which is plenty of room (but at the same time, not nearly enough!!) and Elan casually showed me how to start the motor with a screwdriver. What a stud.
Just moments after getting back underway, we found ourselves being hailed by the Mexican Navy for a routine inspection. Great! They were friendly enough and surprisingly non-invasive in their search, but having 10 dudes in masks with machine guns stomping around the boat was unnerving. Thankfully Apollo, our fierce guard dog, didn’t bite a single one, and we passed our inspection with flying colors.
Needless to say, we were very excited to get to Zihuatenejo, its a good sized town that cruisers consistently love. We agreed that it was a cute town, very clean, orderly, good variety of shops, etc…. however, we were devastated to return to our dinghy after breakfast the next day and find that someone had slashed a big hole in it with a knife. We are totally crushed. We both have traveled extensively abroad with the attitude that if you treat other people with respect and kindness, you can stay out of trouble even in less than perfect security situations. We have no idea what provoked this malicious act. From the looks of it, they cut a slice about 1 foot long and then ripped the hole to a total of about 4 feet. Its a three chambered boat, meant to float even if one tube is popped, but they managed to pop two of the three chambers. We did our best to patch it up on the beach, but its a frankenstein…. we are giving it a day or two to dry before testing it with air. At best, it will be a temporary fix. We informed the Port Captain and FONATUR, Mexico’s tourism dept, of the vandalism, and they all insisted that nothing like that could have ever happened in their town, and I generally got the impression that they wanted the whole thing swept under the rug as soon as possible. Tourism in Mexico has suffered a lot in the past few years due to bad PR about the drug wars, and Im sure they don’t want stories like ours making the record.
However, our boat’s name is Silver Lining, and this story has one too. We contacted Walker Bay, the company that makes our dinghy, told them the sob story, and asked if there was any way (pretty, pretty please) that we could buy a cosmetically blemished dinghy for less than retail price, and have Elan’s sister Deja hand carry it to us when she visits us next month. To our astonishment and relief Walker Bay responded immediately and said that not only do they have a factory in Mexico, but they will sell us a replacement set of tubes at cost!! They are quick-shipping the tubes to us in Acapulco, and we should have them on Tuesday. What an amazing company (based in Yakima WA – huh, close to home!) and fabulous customer service – its the best possible outcome to this sad situation. Their response is a good reminder there are lots of good people out there in the world to offset the occasional jerk. This will still be an expensive hang-up, but its better than it could have been, and Deja- you are off the hook. 🙂
For as much as we looked forward to Zihuatenejo, we couldn’t shake that “I’ve just been violated” feeling and couldn’t wait to get out of there.
We made the overnight passage to Acapulco, and on the moonless night we had the most amazing phosphorescence I have ever seen. Every wave, bow splash, and turn of the prop left a glowing blue streak. While alone on night watch, looking out at the glowing streaks reaching as far as the eye can see, it was easy to imagine that each flash was a fish, or dolphin, or sea monster… hey, night watch goes by slowly without something to occupy your thoughts. 🙂 I had to laugh a little when I pumped the toilet and even saw the glow there in the salt water flush. I think that phosphorescence is caused by the same organism as red tide, and the water has certainly been reddish lately. The color of the water here at anchor in the bay at Acapulco is the most disturbing shade of dark red. In the last few days we have also seen a lot of coagulated oil floating on the surface of the ocean, and what could possibly be a bubbly white dispersant. I think large oil spills sometimes show up as a reddish color. We haven’t seen anything in the news indicating a spill near by, but Mexico’s fuel company, PEMEX, is a federal corporation, so if there was a spill, it may not make the news. Either way, I don’t think we’ll be swimming here.
On a happy note, our new temp gauge and sender fix, seems to have done the trick! The two previous ones, although new, weren’t purchased together, so they just weren’t communicating correctly. We haven’t actually been overheating at all- it was just sending an incorrect message. PHEW! We met a sailor in La Cruz who said she was the only one she’d ever met who’s boat didn’t overheat on the trip down Baja….. and thats because her temp gauge was broken. Haha. Well, either way, we are in good company.
Well, thats it for now, we’ll be here in Acapulco until our dinghy shows up, and then head to Huatalco, our last stop in Mexico before crossing the Tehuanepec and entering El Salvador.
I’m off to see how well I can butcher Apollo’s sweet curls in an attempt to cool him off- he needs it!
Hope you are all well, lots of love,
P.S. We need to add yet another great engagement notice and congratulations for this week! Congrats Bean and Trevor!!