Travels from Feb. 18 to Feb. 24
How do cruising relationships develop? They can take much effort or very little, is the short answer. Nanjo prefers to make the effort easy: if relationships happen, make the most of them; if we have to push for contact, if there isn't a sense that the interest is immediately mutual, drop it. As Nancy likes to put it, when relationships or emotions are the issue - Expectations can lead to disappointment, disappointment will lead to disillusion. Nanjo, traveling gypsy-like, is continuously presented with more opportunities to develop relationships than we can ever try to nurture, or want to. We almost have to take this casual approach to do anything other than social activities. So when Nanjo bonds with another crew, we find that our enjoyment and memories of that stop become more profound, memorable, and difficult, when parting time arrives.
We developed several special, new relationships in San Blas. First, while we already knew Burk and Loup de Mer from EmeryCove, Nancy bonded with Marsha. When they left after a few days in the estuary, we felt disappointed (a good sign). Two other boats became part of the special memories from San Blas: Mildred V and Puffins. This triad began with my attempt to help Dean (Mildred V) fix his laptop. Although unsuccessful, Dean didn't forget it. First he and Anita dropped off a cantaloupe. Then he invited us to join them and Puffins for the Coffee Plantation trip. Remember that this was the trip that ended with the smoked-fish feast. What better way to anchor relationships than at a feeding frenzy?
While Mildred V headed to PV, they will return to Mazatlan in April and will be looking at heading to the Sea of Cortez the same time we plan to. So this may become a buddy-boat relationship for the summer. Puffins became boat-bound for about a week, thereby made our contact with them mostly via radio. An advanced condition of intestinal amoebas required a doctor to make a boat, "house call" to diagnose and treat Ray. Sandy too was carrying the tiny parasites, just not to the same level of discomfort. The recuperation kept Sandy from joining us on the shelling venture we took. But we saved a couple for her.
Puffins misadventure with this common ailment (in Mexico amoebas are considered as common as a cold in the U.S.) made us more proactive in checking our status. We have discussed amoebas with just about every boat that has spent a year or more in Mexico. One can wash every piece of produce, avoid eating almost everything, not drink the water and take all similar precautions, and still become infected. These microbes are in the air as well, riding on dust, etc. The consensus is everyone will get them, it's just when. Some people suggest preemptive medication - take a dose of amoebae busters at least every six months. This had been our plan until Puffins had such a severe condition. Then Jan Goldie suggested that taking the medicine unnecessarily might ultimately give us a resistance to the medication. So we chose to get lab tests on the 18th. We actually became the Net's source for how, where, when, cost and, yes, remedial medication. Our $5 (ea.) test indicated we each had a minor quantity. We were told to take a one-day treatment, one pill with each meal (3). We could only find one dose of the actual brand (Amefin) we had been directed to take. This required us to dig and find a farmacia with the generic (Amenox). So we were able to share the options we found, location they were available, cost and how to ask for a discount (descuento de crusero). Even with the cruisers' discount, the three-pill dose was $8, for either brand. But still the entire test and cure for less than $15 was a far cry from what it would cost us in The Old Country (Calif.) had we waited until we felt symptoms. So now we plan to check every 4 months. Thanks to Puffins for making the task immediate rather than "whenever".
No, that's not the basis for our Puffins relationship. Actually, Sandy and I bonded over the radio. We got into our individual family-philosophy and found common ground. As Nancy has stated, "When Sandy and you meet again, we'll have a rough time pulling you two away from the continuation of your conversation."
Our shore bound relationships of San Blas were Jama, the Goldies, and Roberto, the dinghy landing guard and manager. I have already related the daily contact we had with him. He started our day ashore with a friendly, helpful welcome - and would end it with a helpful, friendly sendoff. Roberto wasn't everyone's son, not tall, dark and handsome, not as talkative when we first met him. Roberto was a gangly, awkward teenager with hair too long, and clothes out of place (ie. a parka with the temperature in the 80's). But Roberto must have wanted to come out of his shell because he warmed to us more each day. The sum of our times with him led to a rather difficult parting. On Sunday, we dinked over to his landing. He bounced down to the water's edge to pull us in. We stopped him from pulling the dinghy all the way up to where he would tether it. Nancy told him we had come to say goodbye and give him a gift. I then proceeded to remove his baseball cap and put one of ours on his head. He first looked uncertain, then his face fell and he sulked off. We went up to say goodbye to Ele and Roberto's Mama. They were very complimentary and wanted to know when we would return. We went back to the dink and Roberto came down to help us once more. His pout was gone, but he wasn't bantering with us. "Adios. Hasta luego", Nancy called.
"Que le vaya bien", he mumbled.
I pulled the outboard starter cord and pointed the dink out. When I looked back, Roberto was slowly walking away from the landing area, looking down at the sand. We had bonded with him BIGTIME!
Jama has helped boaters for over 34 years. This puts the year of his and Jan's arrival in the last years of the Vietnam Conflict. I don't know if that is relative or not. But I wondered what would motivate a pair of New Yorkers to leave their home and come to this place. Jan was a model and a commercially successful painter of New England seascapes. Norman was completing graduate studies in Psychology at Villanova, when he met Jan. Norm was in football and was a steelworker in downtown NYC, also helping build the museum/entrance building at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Sometime during this career, he fell and is now struggling with back problems. He also was a fisherman in the Atlantic, where the fishing was very dangerous and skimpy. Fishing here is a dream in comparison, he told me. After entering Mexico through Mazatlan around Carnival time, they soon located in San Blas and stayed. His main business is taking tourists out to catch game fish. But his reputation has been built on his aid to Mexican fishermen and cruisers. He actually has an official authorization from the Mexican regional maritime authorities.
Norm unfortunately has a more critical health problem than his back - his heart. While we were in San Blas, he announced one evening that he would retire from his activities at the end of this season (June). His aid to mariners starts at 0200 and ends around 2200. He takes a nap from 1130 - 1500, if he can. He never asks anyone to leave his house if they are visiting. He invites everyone to visit. During the hours he is available on-air, he can come off as overwhelming with his offers of advice and assistance. Before we arrived in San Blas, we were told, "He means well and just wants to help." Unfortunately this forced us to have an "expectation". The first time I heard him, I pegged him as from New York. I admit I have an attitude problem relative to New Yorkers, from working with them during my computer service management days. Still we were attracted to meet, visit and get to know the Goldies.
One day I loaned Norm our lite-Jazz tapes and helped him mix a batch of heartworm medicine for his dogs. The latter called for measurements 1/10th of a cc, just like my diabetes syringes. I was comfortable with the task. He enjoyed the tapes and was thankful for the pharmacological help. During the morning and afternoon Nets or anytime Norm and I conversed on the radio, he liked humor and a good laugh. Of course I'm always ready to share a chuckle or be the brunt of a joke.
During the evenings in and near the plaza, when Jama would join the cruisers for dinner and bebidas, Jan and Nancy seemed to end up jabbering about all sorts of stuff. They bonded the most it appears, because the girls have a firm plan to do a girls-only overnighter to Tepic when we return. During our goodbyes the final night in the plaza, Jan pulled me aside and reaffirmed that I would bring Nanjo back to San Blas so that she and Nancy could have their outing.
Maybe I am starting to loose my reluctance to meet New Yorkers. Reliance, Carl and Karin are from Jersey and are tops in our current cruising relationships. Now we add Jama. By the way, Norm named his boat after his favorite girl, Janet Mary. Nanjo is for my center-of-the-universe, Nancy Josephine.
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High tide was at 1000 on the 21st. There were four boats entering the estuary, seven leaving. Once again Komfy was the channel pilot. Nanjo was the lead boat. The day before I had to dive to clean off the depth sounder since it was not giving proper readings. The estuary water was so cloudy, I could only see a shadow of the transducer when a foot away. So we deployed the fishfinder as a backup. This gave Nanjo the ability to report the bottom contour to the boats following. After departing the estuary successfully, the other boats headed south to Chacala and PV, while Nanjo went to Mantanchen Bay to make water.
The next morning at 0600 we weighed anchor and looked to sea. While we had been in the estuary, in the early morning hours, we had seen countless pangas charging out to sea. Now we knew where they went. Net floats and pangas spread across the two miles between the ends of the bay. I remained on the bow to watch for submerged nets. Nancy succeeded in maneuvering Nanjo through the gauntlet. We were fortunate that the fishermen had used like floats to mark the ends of each net. Two black, square jugs marked one; two orange, round floats marked another; two white, milk cartons indicated the ends of the next, and so on. It was hard to make out the colors initially, but it got lighter quickly.
We finally were able to turn northwest and begin the 40-mile trip to Isla Isabela. First we passed the white rock just outside the entrance to San Blas. This monolith is like the First Seed to the Huichol Indians. Their mythology and culture relates intimately with corn, the basic meal of all continental Native Americans. Corn is said to have come from the Peyote cactus. The white rock is the milestone of the first Peyote that the ocean gave to the Huichol long ago in order to make corn. For those of you who would like to understand the culture of the Huichol, residing in San Blas for more than 3000 years and how they are related to the Aztecs and the North American Indian tribes, check out www.huicholartphil.org.mx.
The iron horse pushed us toward our island destination until noon, when we finally picked up some wind. Unfortunately, it was right on our nose. This means the wind is coming from the direction we wanted to steer. In order to sail, to use the winged horse, we would have to steer at least 30 degrees off the direct course. In navigational terms, our VMG (velocity made good) would be substantially reduced, we would arrive much later than we wanted. Unfortunately we had little choice. The seas had built as well and we were getting little to no help from the engine. Nanjo leapt to the challenge. Although the seas were creating a lot of "speed bumps" and "potholes", where Nanjo's bow would plant itself, slowing down, she soon was traveling along at 5.5 kts with Steve at the helm. Nancy and I kept monitoring the VMG and bearing to the waypoint located at Isabela. As the wind shifted favorably, we tacked to improve the numbers. It was looking like we were going to not make it before dark.
The island became visible around 1400. We were within 7 miles an hour before sunset. However, the seas had 6' swells and 2' wind waves, motoring was out of the question. We continued to tack. At sunset we were able to make out a mast in the anchorage. Nancy hailed the anchorage and was answered by one of three boats anchored there. She inquired as to conditions and where they would like us to position Nanjo. We were about to break our rule for anchoring in an unfamiliar location after dark.
First off, the opinion from the other cruiser was that the three boats were filling the anchorage. Next, the anchorage was rough and windy. The good news was the lack of dangers at the entrance. We offered to anchor behind them. [This is also the courteous offer. Most boaters are concerned about other boats dragging anchor down onto them.] But they suggested that we anchor above them and between them and the outer boat. As we got to about ½ mile from the anchorage, our helper, the center boat had his spreader lights on as well as his anchor light. Finally the other boats turned their anchor lights on, even though complete darkness had been present for over an hour. The spreader lights offered an ideal perspective. We joked with Tom that he had his porch lights on, his welcome lights.
Finally I furled in the jib and dumped the main. I just tied the main to the boom in a few places quickly. Nancy steered us up toward the center boat. The depth was 80' and not dropping. We knew the other boats were in 35'. So the anchorage WAS small. About a boat-length away the depth began to drop rapidly. Nancy angled windward and eased slowly past Tom's boat, much slower than the 1200-rpm should do. I had Nancy go more to the inside of Tom's boat and I went forward to drop the anchor.
It turned out that we dropped the anchor in 13' and put out an identical 150' of chain as the other boats. I didn't know it was 13' until Nancy told me she saw that on the depth sounder and put immediatel put Nanjo into reverse. As long as the wind stayed up and from the northwest, we were OK. As it was, Nanjo was two boat lengths above Tom's boat. We couldn't move back any further, safely. If the wind stopped Nanjo would only ease forward a short distance, the weight of the chain stopping her went it hung straight down. The danger of going aground was in the event that a strong wind came from the south or east - not very likely. But we left the radio on in case any of the boats tried to alert the rest of us to such an occurrence.
Nancy and I slept in bursts, awaking and checking our position and the conditions. Around 0200, I pulled out the charts and decided that we should abandon our plan to explore Isabela and do it on the return next Fall. We should make the most of the weather and use the winged horse rather than worry about the anchorage. We captured a few more winks before sunrise.
Crew of Nanjo