Thursday, February 25, 2016

New Photo Journal: Around Banderas Bay

Cloudy morning in La Cruz, Mexico 

We rise early every morning on Espiritu to watch the sunrise.  We saw these very strange clouds one morning last week, and we hadn't seen anything like them, before or since:

The whimsical, strange clouds had the appearance of whipped meringue

At the restaurant La Glorieta in La Cruz, 
where we watched the futbol Americano playoffs on TV

Bucerias children with their pet chicken

This guy was juggling machetes in the middle of the highway, obstructing traffic. Imagine if this happened on the 405 in SoCal -- the police would have immediately shut down traffic in both directions for several hours to deal with it.

Here in Mexico? No big deal. Nobody calls the cops. Everybody just shrugs, laughs, and drives around him. 

Welcome to Mexico!

Pipeline on La Cruz beach 

Catholic church in Puerto Vallarta

Every saturday night La Cruz has a band and dancing for the locals at the gazebo in the town square. Our tradition is Chris buys his handmade ice cream bar and we hang out watching the festivities.

Chris dances off his ice cream sugar 
high by getting his boogie on...

This La Cruz local takes her dancing very seriously...

These blooming yellow trees are erupting all over the area

We made a Costco run with Bret and Marne of LeaHona, which involved a long bus ride and a mile walk in the midday sun.

Yes, even in Puerto Vallarta, pizza and a big 
Diet Coke are a vital part of the Costco experience!

Cats, dogs and chickens inexplicably live completely peacefully amongst one 
another on the street here in La Cruz and throughout Latin America. Perhaps there is a lesson for us humans here?

Hillside above La Cruz

We took this shot of the La Cruz anchorage a few days ago. 
Espiritu is somewhere in the middle of the shot. 

This river cuts right through the middle of bustling Puerto Vallarta

There was a big cruiser's bonfire this week, and I played real
 Mayan music with real Mayan locals. Wow. How cool is that? 

They have yacht racing every week in Banderas Bay. We dove in and did a buoy race aboard Wind one afternoon. Chris was bowman extraordinaire.

I helped douse the spinnaker and jib. Just like the old days racing in SoCal...

...Speaking of which, we ran into our old Newport Beach racing adversary Scavenger down here in Banderas Bay. She was bought by two lovely young Australian ladies and is now a cruising sailboat bound for down under (note the flag)! 

I volunteered at the Manos de Amor orphanage in Bucerias.  There are 24 children ages 2 - 14 living there. I did laundry and washed dishes, but mostly I just played, talked and read to and with the children.

 What a privilege. It was a powerful, emotional experience, and I can't wait to go back. I need to be fully healed from my Dengue Fever before they let me back (go figure -- ha!). 

A generous Canadian benefactor donated these brand new "Canada" hoodies to the kids at the orphanage, which they happily and proudly wore on their way to school in the morning.

One blustery afternoon a couple of weeks ago, the cruising sailboat Rage suddenly broke free from her anchor and began hurtling toward the rocks (Noone was on board).  Several of us jumped into our dinghies to try and help save her from disaster.  

Cruising saiboat Rage. One moment she was resting in the anchorage with the rest of us, 
five minutes later she's on the rocks.

Several dinghies and pangas tried to help. But the waves were just too strong. In fact, not one, not two, but THREE dinghies were flipped trying to get close to Rage. Before our eyes, she broke apart. There was nothing to be done except help rescue the rescuers in their flipped dinghies.

It was a sad day, and a grim reminder that anything can happen to any of us, at any time.

Be safe, life well, live NOW. Make hay while the sun shines.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sea snakes and Dengue Fever

Beautiful caves at Los Arcos in Puerto Vallarta

Our friends on s/v LiaHona invited us to sail from La Cruz, across Banderas Bay, to the beautiful Los Arcos snorkel site near Puerto Vallarta.

Another view of beautiful Los Arcos

The water looked inviting at first. We couldn't wait to dive in and start snorkeling!

As we motored closer to the reef, though, we could see that it was dangerously surgy. This sailboat in the photo was not anchored and had no business motoring so close to the rocks in these conditions

Then a gigantic cattle boat arrived, dumping what felt like 
hundreds of hapless tourists into the surgy water

We snorkeled for a few minutes in the low visibility conditions before climbing aboard LiaHona for the sail back to La Cruz. Ah, well. You get what you get on any given day, right?

Bret and Chris trim the sails

Espiritu crew enjoying the sail aboard LiaHona 

Our new cruising BFF's Bret and Marne of LiaHona 

While the boys had fun sailing the rig, Marne and I sat on the deck enjoying the sail. I told her this amusing story:


I swim every afternoon in the La Cruz anchorage, despite the knowledge that there are poisonous sea snakes in Banderas Bay.  I'm unconcerned because they are usually out in deep water. Noone I know has ever been bitten or even seen one in the anchorage, so I don't worry about it. 

2 weeks ago friends of ours from the marina came out to visit us aboard Espiritu and have a nice swim in the bay. They were not in the water more than 2 minutes when I casually said to them:

"You know, Charlie's Charts says there are poisonous snakes in the bay, but I've never seen one. And the rare times someone sees one, they are usually very far out to sea..."

Before I could finish my sentence, in a panic they climbed onto their dinghy and out of the water!

"Wait, guys..." I cried, " only swam for 2 minutes! Forget what I said about the poisonous sea snakes! Seriously, noone has ever seen one or been bitten here! Please! Go back in the water!"

"Oh, no, we're done. It was a great swim," they said, drying themselves off.

I felt terrible. But there was nothing I could say to get them to jump back in. 


Sailing aboard LiaHona, after telling her the story Marne and I had a good laugh thinking about the shortest swim ever by my snake-skittish friends.

Not 30 second later, what should come swimming past our sailboat?

You guessed it. A yellow-bellied sea snake!

Marne and I looked at each other in shock and laughed heartily.

Well! Despite this amazing wildlife sighting, I'm still swimming in the anchorage. We saw this little fellow 5 miles out in the bay, away from the shore, just like Charlie's Charts says. 

But the timing of the snake was pretty amusing, though...

In other news, we bought a used watermaker which Chris has been working very hard installing.

Captain Chris hard at work installing our watermaker

Obiously, not having a watermaker was our one big question mark regarding spending the summer in the ultra-hot, ultra-deserty Sea of Cortez as we plan to do. Now we're out of excuses: Summer in the Sea, here we come!

Other images from the last two weeks:

Swallows rest on Espiritu's flopper stopper line

This kid sat on the dashboard of his dad's bus without a concern as the bus careened down the highway at 60 MPH. File this under "Things you won't see in the USA." 

Quiz: How many regulations would he be violating if he was in the states? 

Answer: Too many to count.

Along with buses there are countless old minivans that are sort of a combination of a bus and a taxi that drive all over Mexico. For 9 pesos you are crammed into the back of the van.

Note: There is no "maximum occupancy" sign in the van. The van is never officially full. No matter how many people are crammed inside, there is always room for one more.

Chris sits crammed up close and personal with a mom and her two kids

If you sold your minivan in 2008 and are wondering where it ended up, I can guarantee you that it's down here in Mexico. 

Mexico: the place American minivans go to die.

It's exciting to know that we could be riding in Chili Palmer's minivan from Get Shorty
        (Don't mock me! I hear you. But listen -- it's POSSIBLE. Maybe not
 probable, but don't rain on my active fantasy life!)

I spied this plaque for sale at the cruiser's swap meet here in La Cruz:

It says: "This is a swell ship for the skipper, but a hell ship for the crew." I considered buying it for Chris for Valentine's Day but reconsidered. (ha) I bought him some fresh strawberries instead.

La Cruz skyline

Chickens and an AA meeting in Bucerias

Oh. By the way -- there's no easy way to say this. About a week ago I finally went to the local doctor after having fevers, gentle malaise and severe muscle and joint pains.

I thought I had Chickungunya, but the doctor disagreed, and diagnosed me with Dengue Fever.

Now, before you panic, it's a mild case. We caught it early, he put me on antivirals and I lost 5 pounds on the de-riguer "Muscle wasting tropical disease diet." The worst is over and I'm already feeling much better. 

Yee-haw! Welcome to Mexico! 

Also, please note it is not contagious. Humans can only get the disease from a mosquito bite.

Bucerias sunset

Speaking of sunsets, settling in aboard Espiritu in the evening after swimming, bathing and cooking dinner is a daily treat. 

Last evening, as we were watching the sunset, I heard the lilting notes of a solo saxaphone on one of the other sailboats around us playing (ironically) "Sounds of Silence" waft across the anchorage. 

A moment later, he moved into "Scarborough Fair." 


Looks like I can cross "Listen to the solo saxaphone versions of Simon and Garfunkel songs" off of my lifetime bucket list. 

See? Every day is a new and exciting surprise. You just need to look -- and listen -- for it.

They always come. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

La Cruz, Mexico -- new photo round-up

Marina Nayarit at La Cruz, Mexico

Yellow crowned night heron and seagull coexisting comfortably on the dock

Dinghy splash

Typical early evening family scene in La Cruz. Everyone's outside, the TV is on in the background, the little table is set up selling snacks, the kids are playing happily. 

The bull outside the Green Tomato is the new La Cruz mascot

We attended the event "Cruising Kids Serve Dinner" at a La Cruz restaurant. The kids did the cooking and acted as waitresses for us grown-ups. They did the work for free, but got the tips -- which I'm sure were substantial.  :-) 

The wait staff: Left to right: Presley of s/v Yolo, Neli of s/v Riki Tiki Tavi, and Emma of s/v Alert 

Could they be any cuter?

Little 5 year old Neli showed us her waitress pad, complete with drawings of fish
 and shrimp -- much easier than writing out the long words. Too cute.   :-) 

Happily, there are dozens of cruising kids here in Mexico this year.

Cruising pre-teens having a meeting -- what could they be talking about? 

Overheard conversation amongst two pre-teen cruising boys (age 10) passing by on skateboards:


"How old is the oldest car?"




"Nope. The first car was made in 1952!"


"Wow! That's old!"



Chris and I strongly believe in the adage that playing games really does help keep you sane while cruising. So, we take game playing (and good-spirited competition) very seriously aboard Espiritu.  Every time one of us is victorious in either Crazy Rummy, Bananagrams or Mexican Train Dominoes, we shake hands. They whomever is the loser says: "Congratulations, Champ!" and I proclaim loudly:

"To the BIG BOARD!"

I then walk up to the BIG BOARD on the wall above the nav station and, quite ceremoniously, update the running tally of victories.


The big change to La Cruz since we were last here four years ago is the number of gringo snowbirds. There are thousands and thousands of them, taking over the area.

This nice old guy is from North Dakota. North Dakota! Most northern plains folk (my relatives, by the way -- my dad was born there) would consider a few months in distant Arizona a grand, grand adventure.  But North Dakotans in Mexico?!?!? I think it's pretty much unheard of -- until now!

A snowbird rocks the knee socks while gettin' 
down on the dance floor at Philos in La Cruz 

Speaking of Philos, as everyone knows, restaurant owner and musician Philo Hayward passed away suddenly several weeks ago here in La Cruz. I was fortunate to get to sing and perform with him at Philos when we passed through last time. He was pretty much the heart and soul of La Cruz.

Philo may be gone, but Leon is still here, going strong at 82

Only Leon really has the style to rock the knee socks -- and the washboard! 

Leon was extremely close to Philo. When I talked to him about his death, he just shrugged his shoulders and said "Everyone here knows we just need to carry on..." He then said whistfully: "Actually, the truth is, we never talk about it..." His voice trailed off as his gaze fell to the ground and then up to the distant horizon. He turned away.

Feeling bad that I brought up the topic, I then said cheerfully: "Well, of course we know that Philo's one big wish would be to keep the music going!" 

And so we are. Chris and I have played in several open mic night events here. It's still an open question whether Irish/American Old Timey music will catch on here in La Cruz. ;-) 

That's it for now. Hasta luego!