Sunday, March 27, 2016

Welcome to the Trump Apology Tour of Mexico!

A crowd in Mexico burned a Trump effigy back in January. 
It wouldn't be the last.

Chris and I remain in La Cruz, Mexico preparing to sail north for summer in the Sea of Cortez. I'll talk about the "Trump Apology Tour of Mexico!" in a minute. But first:

Images from around Banderas Bay:

Evening in La Cruz 

This is a first class golf course in Puerto Vallarta. One little problem, though. 
Notice the sign. It says:

"Careful. Crocodile Habitat."

Um. Okee dokee.  Not sure how playing golf on a crocodile-filled golf course works.
 It probably adds to the inherent drama, though! 

It's Easter week here in Mexico, which is a huge deal.

Altar for virgin Mary in San Pancho

After countless hours of frustrating work and problem solving by Captain Chris, 
our used watermaker is FINALLY up and running. 

Chris studying the watermaker components aboard Espiritu

While Chris worked hard on the watermaker, I put in a couple of more shifts at the orphanage in Bucerias with my friend Marne of s/v LeaHona. 

Little Charlene had a high fever. 
We took her to the doctor for medical attention. 

While the big kids are still at school, a little one eats lunch alone in the 
dining hall as the cook Anna Maria checks facebook

Little Priscilla says her prayers at the orphanage

Bucerias boy shows off his new Captain America action figure. 
Why don't they make Captain Mexico action figures? 

Lovely scene in Punta de Mita

Clowning around with my buddy, La Cruz local Ernesto

These wild bananas are growing next to the La Cruz marina. Does that mean 
they're free?  Unsure, we left them for the locals.

Laser sailboat race in the bay

La Cruz is the meeting place for sailing friends old and new:

James and his every growing family, crew of s/v Jean Marie

Reunion of sailors we met in El Salvador in 2012: crews of 
s/v Sundancer, s/v Dawn Trader, s/v Espiritu and s/v ChanteyV

Reunion with besties Howard and Lynn of s/v Swift Current. These two kept us 
sane during our months in Costa Rica and Panama back in 2012. 

Chris and Nico of s/v Yellow Feather. He's a single hander who left the insanity of Silicon Valley, jumped on a little yellow sailboat alone, and will be leaving for the South Pacific in 2 days.

 By himself.

 Fair winds, my friend.

Meet new friends Jon and Shannon of s/v Prism.  We were thrilled to find out they're musicians as well! We broke out the instruments one rainy afternoon and had an impromptu jam aboard Espiritu.

Chris on the fiddle, Shannon on the mandolin

Adding Jon on mando and me on guitar made for an amazing rainy afternoon.  A few days later, our new friends shoved off for Central America. They're actually famous online, with many thousands of followers of their blog and YouTube videos. Fair winds, kids! 

This cucaracha climbed up through the manhole, looked around, and returned to the depths

And speaking of cockroaches...

Saturday night we were in the La Cruz town square enjoying a lovely Easter festival with music, dancing, rides for the kids, etc. I was chatting with my friend Marguerite and her family, all lifetime La Cruz locals. 

Suddenly one of them looked at me and said in an agitated voice:

"Trump. Trump. Que paso?"

The happy conversation stopped suddenly -- all of the Mexicans in the group stopped talking. Then, eyes wide, the whole group of them turned and looked directly at me for my response.

I can't be sure, but I think the carousel stopped turning, the children stopped playing, and the entire TOWN went suddenly stone silent, turned, and looked to me for my response.

 They looked frightened and concerned. Scared.

You see, nearly every family in Mexico has a young son, niece or nephew living and working in the United States. So, they have skin in the game. They're worried.

Remember, Donald Trump said that Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers.

He did NOT say that SOME of them are rapists and drug dealers.

When pressed by journalists to clarify, he did not clarify -- instead he doubled down on his statement.

He looked right into the camera and calmy, impatiently even, repeated it as a fact (as if it's so obviously true that it should be clear to everyone): Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers. 



When we first crossed the border into Ensenada back in December, I told the locals not to worry, that it was only a small number of people who followed Trump, and that he would never be elected.

Fast forward to today, and he's about to be nominated for President by the Republican Party. He could very well win the election.

And in case you're wondering, Trump coverage is 24/7 down here in Mexico. The populace here is fully aware of his every move.

I have no idea what to say to my Mexican friends anymore.

 I'm out of excuses for the American people.

From here on out, when a Mexican fearfully asks me about Trump, I'll simply shrug, wave my hand, say "No se," (I don't know) "La gente son loco," (the people are crazy) do a Sign of the Cross, and say: "Dios, ayudamos." (God help us all).

Today they burned another big effigy of Trump in Mexico City, to the joy of cheering crowds.

I really don't know what to do. All I know for sure is, tonight our American flag is coming down off of Espiritu's stern.

Not because I'm ashamed. But because I'm kind of afraid.

Well done, America. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stormy Spring Break

Black storm clouds threaten the La Cruz anchorage

Espiritu had her first bath in weeks recently when 
a major storm blew through from the north. 

But before the actual rain, wind and lightning arrived, we got really big swells.

Check out this photo below: it's taken from the deck of Espiritu. The mast you see in the photo is our closest neighbor in the anchorage. The swells are so large that the boat itself appears to be completely engulfed by the water. After lifting us up 5-10 feet high, the swell promptly dropped us and barreled towards shore. Yikes. Scary but kinda fun. 

A crazy-huge swell appears to engulf and swamp our nearest boat in the anchorage

It was a cold storm, too. Everybody dug out their cold weather gear, tucked away for weeks.

La Cruz Chihuahua wears his "McCloud" style wool lined jacket

I know, kids, not only have you never seen the classic 70's TV show "McCloud," you've never even heard of it, or its star Dennis Weaver. It was a cool show. He was a wild west cop who rode his horse around New York City fighting crime in his fur-lined jacket and cowboy hat.  I know, it sounds preposterous, but back then it seemed pretty cool and believable. 

But I was 13, so what did I know?

A laughing gull heads ashore to hunker down for the storm

Dark clouds gather over the anchorage

A storm cell deluges nearby Bucerias

What this ominous photo doesn't show is the lightning and thunder (yikes) 

We had a sleepless night of lighting, rain and 20-30 knot winds, with everyone on anchor watch. I still don't really know how we survived 6 months in the Central American rainy season. This was the stormy, scary scenario pretty much every day and night in Costa Rica and Panama. It became routine, I guess -- like an employee working under a cruel, abusive boss becomes routine. You adapt and learn to live with it, but the stress wears on you.

The morning after

Anyway, the storm blew through, the balmy tropical weather returned, and we hopped the bus into Puerto Vallarta to buy some watermaker supplies.

After we jumped off the bus in PV, suddenly dozens of dozens of girls wearing nothing but bikinis sauntered past us on the street.

Well, it wasn't ALL girls, but the girl/guy ratio was easily 20/1. Not only were 
they wearing only bikinis, they didn't even have shoes on!

Where did they come from? Where were they going?
They walked up to a resort hotel and plopped down outside the front entrance.

I asked them what the story was, and I found out they had just 
arrived from Penn State for Spring Break. 

I can't be sure, but I think these girls just stepped right onto the plane in Pennsylvania wearing only bikinis. Really, it's all you need for spring break, right? They don't even need purses, because if they play their cards right, they should not need to actually buy any of their own drinks.  And flying without any luggage or carry-ons, well, come on, it's kind of a brilliant idea. I might try it the next time I fly to a tropical locale.

This girl on the right was the ONLY one (out of dozens) in a cover-up. I'm not certain, but I think she was promptly shunned forever for this act of aggression, and excommunicated from her sorority.

But the question remained: where were the guys? 

Dozens of Penn State beauties fly to Puerto Vallarta for spring break wearing nothing but bikinis, and practically NO male students come along? What's going on in Pennsylvania? Are all of the young men in Iraq and Afghanistan? Seriously. I'm actually a little worried...

This guy, though? NOT worried. I heard him mutter 
"Fish in a barrel..." as he passed. Yes, surely he had himself 
the most pleasant of all Spring Breaks!

The next day, I returned to the orphanage in Bucerias 
for an afternoon shift with the adorable kids.

Me and a few of the girls (as opposed to my Penn State friends, these little ladies were actually wearing CLOTHES) at the orphanage singing and goofing around

It was the cook, Anna Maria's birthday, so we sang 
her a rousing "Feliz Cumpleanos" 

Left to right: Natalia, age 6, Charlene, age 5, and feisty little Priscilla, age 2

The cook Anna Maria has her own family whom she returns to every night, but really she is the closes thing to a mother that these kids have.

They bought her a little present, and the best gift of all -- heartfelt hugs


All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. 

We are tied to the ocean.

 And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came.

-- John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Prettiest Mexican Beach You've Never Heard Of...

San Pancho, Mexico

We recently heard about a music festival going on in the beach town of San Pancho, Mexico. San Pancho? Where is that? We'd never heard of it.

This map of the greater Puerto Vallarta area shows San Pancho in yellow, northeast of Sayulita

When we heard it was a mere two bus rides away, and that the music festival was free, the "economy cruising" crew of Espiritu cried: "Sign us up!"

After a short bus ride to Bucerias, we then plopped down on the side of the highway to wait for a bigger bus going north to Guadalajara/Tepic, which would drop us off at San Pancho.

Leaving Bucerias, nearly immediately our bus was in the middle of the jungle (the map above shows the route of the road from Bucerias to Sayulita and San Pancho). The two lane highway twisted and turned through 15 miles of pristine rain forest. 

Finally we arrived at our stop, which was just outside the village of San Pancho. We had about a half mile walk through town to get to the beach.

The village of San Pancho

San Pancho used to be called San Francisco, but about 30 years ago they tired of competing with the "City by the Bay" and changed their name to San Pancho. Good move!

San Pancho has a similar feel to it's surf-mecca neighbor Sayulita, but it's got a slightly older clientele. 

Perfect   :-)

The stunning San Pancho beach 

If you like white sand and turquoise water, then San Pancho is for you

Every inch of the surrounding peaks are covered with coconut palms

palms, frigate birds and blue sky

Limited camping is available on the beach. Seriously -- who needs the South Pacific? 

We have a rule on Espiritu -- walk the entire length of the beach. It's a no brainer: it's good for the mind, body, spirit...and marriage!   :-) 

At the southwest end of the beach I came upon an older Mexican woman perched at a prime spot on the rocks, taking in the beauty of the place.  Shoes off, her toes wiggled contentedly in the sand as she gently ran her well-work rosary beads through her fingers.

Her eyes met mine, and she greeted me with a friendly "Buenos tardes." Her name was Glorietta, and she told me she'd lived in San Pancho all her life. 

Glorietta with her rosary and sand between her toes

She comes down to the beach every afternoon to say her Hail Marys.  I said in Spanish: "It's easy to feel close to God in such a beautiful place." She looked me in the eye, smiled and nodded, saying "Si." Her face emitted near complete contentment, love and peace.

I pulled up a rock next to her and for several minutes we sat quietly, watching the waves, the birds, the sky, the people -- so grateful to be in this beautiful place.

We were just two women, sitting together.

When it was time for me to go we took each others hands and said our goodbyes.

I tell you -- there is an amazing quality about the Mexican people. There's no other word for it but grace. They are graceful. 

Despite living often in extreme poverty, they want for nothing and are happy and content wherever they are. Living with them and amongst them is changing me. It's humbling me. 

Glorietta and I said our goodbyes, and Chris and I headed back into town for the music festival.

Like all Mexican beach towns in 2016, there are tons of gringo expats living in San Pancho.

One gringo business owner wrote this little sign and posted it on the street:

It says: "A poem: I hate mornings. I wish I was drunk. The end."

Now -- I get it. It's meant to be amusing. It's a joke (sort-of). But compare this "message" with the unspoken one of my friend Glorietta sitting quietly and contentedly on the beach.

I mean -- we're GUESTS in THEIR country. A sign like the one above is just sort of tacky. It's so AMERICAN. And it kind of pisses me off. 

Anyway, we grabbed some tacos on the street and headed for the music festival -- which exceeded our expectations. The jazz (featuring original members of the group Kilamanjaro) was amazing.

As if the music and the beauty of the place weren't enough, Chris pointed up in the trees surrounding the outdoor stage. A flock of Aztec parakeets had arrived and chirped excitedly as they flitted from tree to tree.

Aztec parakeets -- evidently they like jazz!

Chris and I gave each other a look that said: "Wow. How is it that we're even HERE at such a beautiful place and time?"

As soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, though, we shook ourselves out of our dreamy trance and realized we need to start the long journey home.

Wandering around lost at night in Mexico is best avoided if possible.

We walked the half mile out of town as the jazz gently echoed through the valley. By the time we reached the main highway, it was night. Black night.

The highway was jungle-bound and  completely unlit, so we stood by the side of the road and waited.

We saw a bus, waved frantically, and they pulled over. It was a packed overnighter bus halfway through their route from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta. We scampered aboard and the door closed behind us. It was pitch black inside the bus. Chris stayed up front to see where in the hell we were going, and hopefully get us off somewhere near Bucerias.

I felt my way to the only empty seat in the back of the bus. The driver tore out and began speeding over and around the twisty mountain road. The bus interior was completely unlit. Black.  Noone was reading, there was not a single light on. Everyone had their curtains pulled and appeared to be sleeping contentedly, but inside and outside were only absolute darkness. No street lights, no headlights reflecting from other cars. 

The only tiny bit of light was from a small TV screen at the front of the bus which was showing the James Gandolfini/Julia Louie-Dreyfuss movie 'Nuff Said. 

James Gandolfini and Julia Louie-Dreyfuss, dubbed in Spanish

I realized as the bus careened through the blackness that I probably should be concerned. Did he even have the headlights on? I saw none from my vantage point. It was only extreme jolting from side to side, up and down, left and right in complete and utter darkness -- like being inside an unlit clothes dryer, with a chance of dying.

From somewhere on the bus, a baby cried fearfully and fretfully. Apparently he and I were the only ones aboard who understood the gravity of the situation. 

It was only me, the baby and James Gandolfini -- who, by the way, is now dead. 'Just saying. (OK, OK. Julia Louie-Dreyfuss is still alive, so there's that.)

Anyway, as I looked at the sleeping people around me (or, should I say, listened to them breathe and snore -- since, as I said, it was completely BLACK, inside and outside), I was amazed at their trust. Their attitude seemed to be:

"Well, we've gotta get from here to there. Yeah, the guy's driving like a wildman through an unlighted, twisty mountain jungle road, and we can't see a thing, but -- the odds are on our side. And since we may die any moment here in this complete darkness, and there's nothing we can do -- we may as well take a nice long nap."

I realized that bus was a metaphor for us humans on planet Earth. We're here, careening through the dark universe at hundreds of miles an hour. Really, we can't do much. We have no control. We've gotten on the "bus," so we're committed. There's no getting off. 

So we may as well enjoy the ride.