Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just a little bit more Zihuatanejo before we go...

Well, Zihuatanejo is starting to feel like home. And you know what that means:

                                                               It's time to leave.

Dinghy beach at Zihua

The sad reality of traveling life is thus -- right when you know the place and come to care for the people -- right when you have settled in and you can find your way around -- it's time to go. Ah, well...

Espiritu rests in the anchorage behind the charming Zihua fish market

This has been our favorite destination so far in our travels. Zihua will be hard to beat.  There's even a sweet little movie theatre right here in town, called the Cinema Paraiso. We saw "Man on a Ledge" in English with Spanish subtitles.

It's quite enlightening watching the Spanish subtitles to an English film. For instance, I learned (over and over again) that the Spanish word for "S-H-I-T!" is "Maldicion!"

It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, now, does it?

Another view of charming Zihuatanejo

We had a rather shocking experience the other evening:

We were strolling through seaside Zihua. Mexicans mixed happily with gringos, children laughed, teenagers played basketball, and locals sold their wares. Just another evening in paradise.

 We heard a woman making a presentation to a gathering crowd at an outdoor stage area, so out of curiosity we decided to check it out.

She spoke loudly into a microphone in rapid Spanish on the stage with a display of the Mayan Calendar behind her. Suddenly, she turned to the east and told us to raise our hands. She then directed the crowd to follow her as she chanted to...the sun God? She spoke so quickly I could only understand bits and pieces, but suddenly we were in the middle of a couple of hundred people chanting and droning to a Mayan deity!

There were several gringos in the crowd, and stunningly, they simply followed along, raised their hands and chanted away!

Then, she directed us to turn towards the north, raise our hands and follow her chants and drones to...the  stars, I think it was? Or another Mayan deity of some sort.

And everyone turned, lemming-like, and followed her.

This was really sort of shocking to both of us, as I truly thought Mexico was nearly completely cloaked in an enveloping (and controlling) blanket of Catholicism.

I kept looking over to the corners of the crowds, where I half expected a group of priests and nuns to come running through the crowd slapping our hands with rulers and breaking it up.

Can you imagine this scene being tolerated in the U.S.?

I have no idea how prevalent this is here. But what was amazing was the way passersby (and gringos!) just dropped their shopping bags, raised their hands, turned toward the sky and simply joined right in!


A Canadian sailor proudly displays the maple leaf off of his ster

In other news, I've noticed that the majority of Canadians sailing here in Mexico prominently fly their national flags.  What makes this interesting is the fact that the majority of the American sailboats -- well, DON'T.

The topic of the politics of the American cruiser is a delicate one. And it's not easily defined.

One especially positive aspect of this unplugged cruising life is the fact that we are all essentially removed from what we can all agree is the tawdriness of the 24 hour news cycle. And I can't tell you what a relief this is. "Cleansing" only begins to describe it.

Interestingly, politics rarely comes up in our discussions with other cruisers. And since most of us have made the decision to NOT fly the stars and stripes, the question is: Why?

It's easy to imagine that many non-flag wavers are far left types who aren't fans of the increasingly imperialistic turn of our country over the last 15 years.

But to say that most American cruisers, and most non-flag fliers, are lefties would be a gross miscalculation.

The stars and stripes is a sight rarely seen amongst American cruisers here in Mexico

Many American sailors here have a strong libertarian streak. Those with this independent personality type are also, not coincidentally, more prone to throw off the shackles of modern American life and head south.

The same goes with "Tea Party" types. And I suspect there are a few of those down here too.

The interesting conclusion that I must come to is that while most American cruisers in Mexico are extremely independent and unconventional, politically they tend to be either left/far left or right/far right.

With practically no-one in the mushy middle.

Well, if we were followers then we probably wouldn't be down here, right?

So why not fly the flag, though?

It may simply boil down to fear and common sense. Regardless of your political views, one must acknowledge that for many different reasons, the popularity of the U.S. and it's policies is at it's lowest point since, well...EVER.  Poll after poll shows this, sadly.

So not advertising the fact that one is an American is probably a smart move, albeit not one that Chris and I are taking.

We do fly our flag. Because regardless of what we may or may not feel about current U.S. policy, the U.S. is still our home. It is where we were born, and nearly everyone we love lives within it's borders. For better or for worse, it is our motherland.

And regardless of your political or religious views, what American could disagree with the sentiment:

                                                         "God bless the U.S.A.?"

Well, we're pulling up anchor tomorrow morning and heading south to Acapulco with our buddy boat "Talaria." The weather prediction is for fair winds and following seas during our one night passage.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Las Hadas to Zihuatanejo

After a slightly squally two night passage from Las Hadas, we're comfortably anchored in heavenly Zihuatanejo.

Stormy weather can be beautiful too. This photo was taken on the passage to Zihuatanejo

We were boarded by the Mexican Navy during this overnight passage. Well -- it was more a "drive by" than an actual boarding. The PT type gunboat with 10 fully armed men powered up next to us.

We gulped, put on our friendliest smiles and cried "Buenos Dias" with a happy wave.

Fortunately they replied in kind. They asked us a few simple questions across the 10 feet of water between us. Our answers -- and our demeanor -- evidently appeased them because with a quick "Buenos Dias, adios" we were on our way without a problem.   

Speaking of cats, I've gotta introduce you to "Snowball" the salty sea cat on board our buddy boat "Talaria:"

You don't mess with Snowball. But she's got a heart of gold... :-) 

We've been in Zihuatanejo for about a week now. Zihuatanejo. That sounds like the t-shirts you can buy in Honolulu gift shops with "Kamanawannaleu" emblazoned on the front. 

But the locals call it "Zijua" for short. 

The view of Zihua from our boat

A charming Zihua waterfront cafe

In Zijua, you drop off your dinghy to Jose and Alfonso, who for 10 pesos will watch our dink on the beach all day for us while we go into town.

Jose the dinghy security guard provides my first installment of a series called: "Innocent, trusting Mexicans who wear donated American t-shirts which say completely offensive and tasteless things in English, but they have no idea what it says." 

Trust me -- Jose is most definitely not a "Pharma Freak!" 

The question is, who was the person in the states who actually had this t-shirt printed up in the first place? Is "Pharma Freak!" a punk band or something? The mystery continues...

Anyway, in other news, there is a beautiful beach here in Zihua bay called "Playa Ropa." 

Playa Ropa in Zihua Bay is one of the prettiest beaches in Mexico

We walked over with Rick and Deena of "Talaria" and actually spent the entire day on lounge chairs, sitting under coconut palms, dozing, reading, laughing and swimming.

We had to pay 50 pesos each for the privilege of sitting on these lounge chairs for the day!

Believe it or not, after almost four months sailing Mexico, this is the very first day we have actually rested on a beautiful beach and lounged all day. (It's true -- check the record!)   

We also snorkeled amongst colorful fish and vibrant coral reefs at Playa Gato, another white, sandy beach here in Zihua. We also saw a sea snake snoozing under a rock, and several barracudas which were patrolling the area.  

The key, when one comes upon such creatures, is to exude CALM...

I believe we were successful as none of us were bitten, attacked or gnawed on by any of these slightly horrifying undersea creatures.

In other news -- the temperatures rising, folks. Slowly but surely, as we get closer to spring and summer and as we tick off the degrees of lattitude and head farther and farther south, closer to the equator...

...the heat is on.

So we're making minor changes in our daily lives aboard Espiritu. For one thing, we're doing our chores earlier in the morning and heading ashore earlier, and returning to Espiritu for lunch, with the plan of resting during the hottest afternoon hours.

Then, in the evening, we can return to town. For the evening is the most vibrant time in the tropics. The sun is down, the heat evaporates, yet the gentle ocean breezes caress. The famous Mexican "siesta" makes perfect sense. Work in the morning, rest in the afternoon (in fact -- barely move!) then come on out again after the sun sets.

Kids are out playing happily well until 10 PM. And why not?

During our evening strolls through town, we often dive into the famous "Central Mercado." Every major Mexican town has one.

The fresh beef arrives at the central meat market

The butcher proudly displays his wares (these shots just never get old)

By all accounts, I should hate these central markets. I've always felt claustrophobic and even slightly nauseous by crowded U.S. shopping malls. 

But there is a vibrancy in these Mexican central markets that is missing in the U.S. shopping experience. Yes, they are packed with people. But there is a palpable sense of joy and community. Children are running about playing happily. Musicians stroll and play. Scents of chilis and fresh tortillas mix with newly sliced pineapple and mango.

True, there is no air conditioning, but there are skylights, and fans whirr noisily from every corner.

It's impossible to explain. But the bottom line is, the people simply seem happy to be there. And this is contagious...

Anyway, after a steamy evening in town amongst the music and the market (and the library -- they have a small English language section and they happily checked out a book for me! It was a book about women exploring nature...), we return to Espiritu.

Lately, it's even hot when we return to the boat well into the evening, so I've taken to going for a night swim just before bed.

The other evening, there was no breeze. The heat was stifling. The night was black and the water was blacker. But it was as still as glass.

I gently lowered myself into the water over the side of the boat and heaved a sigh of pleasure. Slowly treading water, I looked down at my hands through the water to find that my movements were creating waves of phosphorescence!

A rare photo of underwater phosphorescence, created by algae blooms which light up in response to movement

I felt like Tinker Bell. I smiled up at Chris, who emerged from the darkened cockpit and watched, amazed at the sight.

As I gently moved my hands and legs through the black water, you could almost hear the silent tinkling, crystalline melody as the sparkling lights flowed from my hands, arms and legs. 

You know, the Christian tradition speaks often of the "Living Water." And this was a reminder that the water in which I'm privileged to swim really is alive.  I want to drink deeply from it. 

As we continue ever south, the water will become warmer still, and the air balmier. 

Our plan is to leave Zihua in a week or so, and buddy boat with Talaria (and possibly others) for the overnight sail to Acapulco. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

David Puddy lives...

The Zen of David Puddy

I'm often reminded of the classic "Seinfeld" episode where Elaine and her boyfriend David Puddy were on a long flight to Europe. Elaine nervously fiddles through magazine after magazine, book after book, whiling away the hours, while David simply sits and stares at the back of the airplane seat in front of him with a gentle Mona Lisa smile on his face.

Exasperated, she finally turns to him and says sarcastically: "David, aren't you going to read, or something? Are you going to just sit there staring at the back of that airplane seat during the entire flight?"

David turns to her and calmly says: "Yeah. That's right."

Elaine, at her breaking point, slams down the magazine and hisses: "That's it! We're DONE. We're breaking up!" 

If you don't watch "Seinfeld" -- well, first of all, if you've never seen "Seinfeld," immediately turn off the computer and go plop down in front of the nearest TV, turn on any channel, wait long enough and a rerun will soon appear. Trust me: your life will never be the same.

Anyway, I digress. Let me tell you a little bit about David Puddy.

He is an extremely handsome auto mechanic. He speaks in monosyllables and is a man of few words. 

But David Puddy is NOT dumb. On the contrary, he seems to have a certain Zen wisdom which he carries around in that big lug of a body of his. He seems to have the answers to all questions, yet he doesn't waste much breath speaking about them. 

He seems to inherently know that this wisdom is far beyond the ability of Elaine, Jerry and George to be able to comprehend (Kramer, on the other hand, I assume completely "Get's it."), so like any sage, he merely smiles compassionately at the flailing Elaine, and returns his sites to the back of the airplane seat in front of him.

He's like the Chief Seattle of the Upper West Side.

I can't tell you how many hours Chris and I have spent aboard "Espiritu" sitting in the cockpit at anchor with me glued to a book, and he, staring off at the horizon with that same damn David Puddy wise sage expression on his equally handsome mug. 

For hours.

And I, Elaine-like, will ask a bit impatiently: "So, what are you thinking about?"

"Nothing..." He will gently say, without taking his eyes off of that horizon or those clouds. 

I understand Elaine's exasperation. For a long time what bothered me about his staring off at the horizon while I tried to read my book is I felt that he was sending me a subliminal message that he was bored and he wanted me to stop reading and DO something with him. 

But I've slowly learned that, believe it or not, he really is quite content that way, sitting, staring...

Men swear to us ladies that when they sit staring off at the horizon for hours on end, they really are simply thinking about "nothing."

Hmmmm. Is this true? Can this really be true?

Well, the mystery continues, because David Puddy -- and my husband -- are not talking...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A typical day at anchor aboard "Espiritu"

First, we rise as the sky gently lightens before sunrise...the amethyst rays come quietly peeping in under the v-berth hatch...

La Cruz sunrise aboard "Espiritu"

Chris always rises first.

He heats up what's left of yesterdays coffee in our old-timey camping coffee pot (probably our most loved possession aboard).

Then Chris lowers the dinghy after lifting it up out of the water at bedtime the night before to reduce risk of theft.

With this task done, Chris then settles in to monitor the sunrise. He studies it.

My husband taught me how to watch a sunrise (or a sunset, for that matter). The key with a sunset it this: most people make the mistake of walking away as soon as the star of the show has sunken below the horizon.

Big mistake.

Sunset over Espiritu

He taught me that when watching a sunset, the best part is after the sun has gone down. This is when the real light show begins. THIS is when the pinks and purples show up. THIS is when the miracle happens.

At some point I meander out of bed and join him in the cockpit, bleary eyed.

We then quietly watch the sunrise together, sipping coffee.

Around 8 or 8:30 we'll listen to the morning cruisers net to find out what's what.

Then I'll make breakfast in my Malibu Barbie galley. My usual rotation is:

 a) nonfat, sugar free yogurt (YES, this is available in Mexico!) with fresh fruit, nuts and granola (also surprisingly attainable here);

b) pancakes and fruit;

c) eggs, bacon and fruit;

d) french toast and fruit;

e) eggs, fruit and homemade biscuits

(With all of this fresh papaya, kiwi, mango and banana available, how could we not eat fresh fruit with every meal?)

We read our daily devotions together every morning after breakfast in the cockpit. Often this will lead to a meandering conversation on where we are, where we're going, what our hopes and dreams are, any disappointments or frustrations we may have...

Then it's time to clean the kitchen.

The thing about cooking and cleaning aboard is every simple task is just a little bit more difficult than it is back home, and takes a smidge more effort and time. (As in the camping coffee pot above -- no Mr. Coffee here).

Doing dishes is a bit of a slog. Since we don't have a fresh watermaker, I wash my dishes in ocean water, which I access via a foot pump a couple of feet away. (Cruisers hint: I set a small bowl with fresh water, a dollop of dish soap and a few teaspoons of vinegar in the sink and dip my sponge there to wash the dishes, then rinse in the salt water. The vinegar really helps cut the grease.)

I wash and re-use ziplok bags over and over again, and hang them to dry on our fruit hammock.

Then I'll make my world famous sun tea concoctions -- "Espiritu" style.

Recipe: one green tea bag and two slices of fresh lime in a Coca Cola bottle, and into the sun she goes for the day


I also reuse and fill these bottles with fresh drinking water. I've lately taken to putting these in the freezer, so when we pull them out to drink, the ice slowly melts as the temperature rises...  :-)

In a typical day, we might go into town for provisions. Since we don't have a car, we walk, take the bus and wear our back country backpacks so we can fill them up at Costco, Walmart or Mega.

Here in Las Hadas, Manzanillo, the walk to the bus stop from the anchorage is a shadeless mile. Fortunately the buses are ubiquitous and cheap here in Mexico. One comes by about every 7 minutes.

After our shopping excursion, we cram everything deep into our backpacks and hit the road again, heavy laden with our treasured sustenance.

These are our most exhausting days. After arriving hot and sweaty back on the boat and putting away our priceless booty, it's on with the swimsuits and over the side we go for our watery reward!

While in the water, I'll often spend several minutes scrubbing the waterline with a strong sponge, releasing "Espiritu" from the bonds of the countless species of algae and barnacles that so quickly accumulate on her hull.

Monthly, Chris goes down with the huka line/SCUBA and does a thorough scrubbing all the way down to the tip of the keel.

A late lunch will usually be a simple PB & J or tuna fish sammy. Weirdly, Mexican mayonnaise comes with lime flavoring. It takes some getting used to. But I miss my Best Foods! And of course, some fresh papaya goes on the side with the sandwich, or half of an avocado.

By this time (around 2 or so) we can relax on the boat for a couple of hours before dinner. Usually I'll read and Chris will tinker with one of the countless maintenance tasks which needs tending to, or if I'm lucky, he'll gently play the mandolin as I read my book.

If this part sounds like paradise, then you're right. It is.  :-)

After swimming again, we'll bathe in our outdoor shower in the cockpit before dinner.

Chris will usually entertain me with more music (maybe the fiddle this time -- he is getting SO GOOD -- you should hear him!) as I prepare dinner.

I will often cook several days worth of beans (I believe they must be the official food of Mexico!) in the pressure cooker after soaking them overnight.

Since fresh tortillas are everywhere, and they're cheap and delicious, we'll often have burritos or quesadillas for dinner, with fresh avocado on the side, brown rice (it's hard to find in Mexico, unfortunately) or more papaya.

Then after watching the sunset together, we'll settle in for an evening movie. Tonight, we're looking forward to watching "10" with Bo Derek and the  hilarious antics of the late Dudley Moore (filmed here in Las Hadas).

When in Mexico...

We then pop up into the v-berth and watch something silly on DVD (yes, we have two tiny TV's! One in the main salon, and one in the v-berth) in bed, like an old western. Last night we laughed at the ultra kitchy Roy Rogers in a nugget from the 30's.

When you're desperate for entertainment, you'd be surprised at what you might enjoy!

So that's pretty much it. A day in the life of "Espiritu."

We're getting the hang of it. We work hard, relax afterwards and sleep like babies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New photo round-up

Beach scene in La Manzanilla

Hat washing day aboard Espiritu


                      We spent a day exploring the maze-like Las Hadas resort here in Manzanillo on foot.
                        It's beautiful,  but I've gotta admit, it's a thrill to go back to our anchored
                            "Espiritu" at the end of our exploring -- 'cause it's FREE! :-)

       This La Manzanilla open air tienda personifies the Mexican grocery experience: note the skylight (saves electricity), the canned goods lining the wall, and of course, Mother Mary overlooking all...

A typical scene in Melaque 


Captain Chris peruses the little fleet in our secret anchorage paradise at Carrazal

This La Manzanilla street scene pretty much says it all

We took a day strolling through Barra Navidad. What an adorable little village!

                              Did you ever wonder what happened to Thrifty Drug Stores, and their
              ice cream cones?   They moved to Melaque, evidently! Yes, this is an ice cream store!
                                 Sadly, the cones are no longer 5 cents, though...

Walkway over the estuary in La Manzanilla

Yes, I took this photo in La Manzanilla!
This is a 1,000 pound crocodile in the wild, merely feet from us! Wow!

This suspension bridge over the La Manzanilla crocs seemed very stable, thankfully

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chamela to Manzanillo

We're happily holed here at the Las Hadas anchorage in Manzanillo. It is a lovely place -- an exotic Mediterranean style resort.

The classic film "10" with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore was filmed here

It's a comfortable anchorage, and there is a nice little dinghy beach landing by the Dolphin Restaurant, where we watched El Super Bowl Americano on a tiny TV in Spanish with a bunch of Canadians on vacation.

When we left Chamela on January 29th, it was a pleasant day sail down the coast to Tenecatita Bay. The anchorage there was warm and calm, with good sand holding. But there was nothing THERE at Tenecatita. We were led to believe there would be a town. A fellow cruiser even calls himself the mayor of Tenecatita. Hmmm....

But there has been political strife there, and evidently it has been shut down by the government. We don't know the details, and kept getting conflicting reports from different sources.

Anyway, we took a day sail across the bay to the town of La Manzanilla, as opposed to Manzanillo. They are two separate towns. Manzanilla means "chamomile" and Manzanillo is a poisonous tree. Hmmm...

La Manzanilla beckons

The anchorage at La Manzanilla was comfortable for the day, but it takes the northerly swells head on so it is not recommended overnight.

This town was filled with well-to-do gringos on vacation or in long-term retirement rentals. It is a cultured, artistic town -- clean and lovely.

Upon motoring back across the bay to the Tenecatita anchorage, Chris and I spent the evening playing music with Gregorius of "Foreign Affair" in the cockpit of our friends aboard "Talaria." I made my husband happy by dusting off my flute for a change. As the sun set over the bay, leaving it glittering with dancing spangles, it couldn't have been more pleasant to send some happy little notes dancing across the water, to be lapped up by the several other boats lazing in the anchorage.

The next morning, we pulled anchor and popped a few miles south to the Melaque anchorage.

We had been warned that Melaque has earned the nickname "Rocky Melaque," but this wasn't our experience. It was yet another exceedingly fetching spot on this lovely Mexican gold coast.

We have been rather stunned by the numbers of Americans and Canadian retirees (full and part time) who have infiltrated and nearly taken over several of these lovely seaside Mexican towns. And Melaque was no exception -- in this case there was a gigantic RV park next to the beach filled with long-term residences from the Great White North.

 But I admit a bit of embarrassment due to the large number of corpulent, drunken, scantily clad gringos in the beach palapas, barking out orders to the frantic Mexican workers.

The "new" Mexico

Anyway, I try to bend over backwards to not be an "Ugly American." The Mexicans have been nothing but gracious and welcoming to Chris and I, and I could not be more grateful for the privilege of passing through and living with them amidst such natural abundance, at least for a short time.

On February 2nd, we left Melaque and motored a mere 10 miles south to the isolated jungle cove of Carrizal.

Carrizal Bay


We spent two blissful nights anchored here in 30 feet with old friends and new aboard "Nyon,", "Talaria," "Waves Away," "Red Witch II" and "Foreign Affair." We snorkeled the amazing reef strewn with green and blue corals, swam and hiked around our private little hideaway.

On our last evening in this paradise, far from people, roads, lights and cars, all of us had a beach bonfire with Chris on mandolin, myself and Gregorius on guitar, and Rick from "Nyon" displaying his considerable skills on the Irish drum.

Never pass up a chance to have a beach bonfire! They're magic...

Which brings us to Manzanillo, where we find ourselves today. We plan on staying here at least a couple of more days and provisioning at Mega and Wal-Mart. After that we head south yet again...

From this point, as we get farther away from the states and from large cities, our internet access will be more and more sporadic. Please know that it may be a couple of weeks at least between postings. Remember that the weather down here is incredibly mild and inviting during this time of year. And we're surrounded by many sailing friends.

We sailors take care of each other -- we look out for each other. It's in our genes, and our DNA.

So don't worry. We're having the adventure of a lifetime!