Log 9: Winter 2001/Spring 2002
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What a contrast between the stark beauty of the Baja deserts we left behind and the lush mainland we toured this Spring! This journey took us from Mazatlan down to Zihuatanejo, the farthest south we'd been so far. Follow our trail along the western coast of Mexico to share in some new discoveries.
Note: Small "thumbnail" photos quickly highlight our experiences. Click on any thumbnail for a better view.
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Guadalajara Trip Z-Town Races Work! Friends
Following our award-winning Thanksgiving Goat Fest, we crossed the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to the mainland, saying goodbye to friendly shrimp boats and landing our last Dorado for the season. Waiting five days for favorable weather conditions did not guarantee a gentle passage: a Cold Front (that was predicted not to venture south) joined a Pineapple Express (supposedly stable in Central America) to give us "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". As the rough seas defeated Diane's hard-won battle against sea-sickness, Les persevered with lone watches in the pounding rain. He and Helen on Viajera consoled each other on the radio, essentially single-handing the two boats into the marina. They almost knelt to kiss the ground when we arrived in Mazatlan!
After last year's 6-month teak deck removal job, Mazatlan felt like old home week. However, a bankruptcy dispute has closed Marina Mazatlan, leaving the rather pricey "El Cid" and the relatively primitive "Isla Mazatlan" as the only choices. Still, we parked the boat at El Cid for a Christmas visit home while Valkyrie took care of Cami the Cat, then we departed with Good Medicine to continue our voyage south. Dressed in our typical Land's End/Patagonia style clothing, Patty and Diane are frequently mistaken for each other. There are some strong similarities--can you find Diane's "Evil Twin"?
The Voyage South
We departed Mazatlan in mid-January, stopping briefly at Matanchen Bay and Chacala before continuing south. Mexico's new $30 check-in policy motivates us to by-pass places we've been before or anchorages that don't sound too tempting, so instead of going into Puerto Vallarta, we made another exciting overnight passage to Chamela, a new anchorage for us. This is a large, beautiful bay with two fascinating islands, where hiking to the top holds the reward of close-up ejcounters with boobies. (Sorry, no photos exist of this perfect anchorage!)
Next stop: Tenacatita.
These photos may seem too good to be true, but they barely do justice to the beauty of this anchorage. The main attraction for us was the river. In order to buy fresh vegetables, we had to ride our dinghy through this tropical forest, sighting crocodiles and birds hiding in the lush foliage. Friends Helen and Wayne from Viajera, along with their guest, joined us for this day trip up the river, where we bought veggies from a roving truck. Following lunch at the palapa restaurant, we all returned to the "mother ships" to wash & pack all our precious fruits & vegetables.
Having been somewhat spoiled by the Sea of Cortez, we thought visibility and sealife in the mainland waters were very poor, so were happy to discover that snorkeling at "The Aquarium" at the head of the river was not too shabby.
At the south side of the Tenacatita anchorage lies La Manzanillo, a charming town with some not-so-charming crocodiles called "Caymans". These chubby creatures are well-fed by the local sea life, but watching some biologists capture and tag them convinced us to keep our distance nevertheless. We spent three weeks between January & February in Tenacatita, enjoying the peaceful anchorage, the simple restaurant erectedfor the movie, "McHale's Navy" building, and the perfect combination of warm days and comfortable nights.
Remembered by many as "that charming little village" halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, Z-Town (as it's lovingly called) has worn her age and growth well. After the isolated quietude of the Sea of Cortez, this 100-boat haven was a bit of a culture change, causing us to catch our breath at the constant stream of visitors and radio activity. But we easily adapted to the variety of restaurant fare, beachside volleyball, dinghy raft-ups, and hikes at sunrise.
Morning hikes were mostly organized by Debbie from Different Worlds, and frequently attracted as many as 20 people. Some of the more aggressive hikes (like the 8-mile trek to Ixtapa) prompted a spin-off group to take an abbreviated version, but we had no less fun. One morning, a mule wanted to follow us on our walk, but Renee from Scarlett O'Hara and Ruth from Icicle patiently convinced him that crossing the road could be hazardous to their health!
A colorful sunrise rewards the last watch-stander with a memorable sight. On Gemini, we usually start the watch schedule around 8:30, after dinner and the evening Southbound net. We do three hours on, and three off, until about 9 a.m., when regular meal service resumes. A little nap for each of us in the afternoon helps compensate for the lack of sleep during an overnight voyage.
Everyone's favorite sailing magazine, Latitude 38, brought their catamaran Profligate to Zihuatanejo and challenged Capricorn Cat to a fund-raising regatta. With almost everyone to participating, it turned out to be a gala event. Gemini arrived after this madness, but got a great collection of photos from Fairwinds so we could share this spectacle with you.
Click here for more photos of Zihuatanejo Race Day.
Barra de Navidad: The Good Life
We bypassed Navidad on the way south, but heard so many rave reviews we just had to stop there on our way back north. And we were very glad we did. Anxious moments followed us along the extremely shallow entrance to the lagoon, which in itself only offered 8-to-12-foot depths for setting our anchor. But the peaceful, lush surroundings rewarded our perserverance, and we ended up staying for a week. Here is the awesome Grand Bay Hotel, an architectural masterpiece perched above the bay entrance opposite a simple Mexican tourist town. Since April is Diane's birthday month, we celebrated once in town and twice at the hotel, with cocktails and a dinner to write home about. This place really must be seen to be believed, but here's a peek at what you can expect to see.
In Barra, the Grand Bay Hotel Marina with the lagoon anchorage in the background.
Les and Diane get a slice of civilization:
The Grand Bay Hotel Touring the golf course. Admiring the Lobby. Celebrating a birthday.
The hotel also has its own web site: www.islaresort.com.mx
We headed back north from here, camping at Chamela with Scout, Pegassus, Perilandra, Magic Dragon and Maverick???? for 5 days while the weather mellowed out. Altough we've downloaded weather faxes the past couple years from NOAA and the Winlink using our onboard email system, Les has been looking at a new product: "GRIB" files. These weather charts, animated over a 3-day period, appear to be very accurate and easy to understand. The entire "fleet" was congregating daily to assess the information, and was rewarded with a very pleasant trip north--even around Cabo Corrientes, known for its knarly winds.
Land Trip: Guadalajara/Lake Chapala-Ajijic
Arriving at Puerto Vallarta almost a month later than anticipated was not a disappointment. Since Wayne and Nora were arriving in 15 days, we decided to take a long-overdue trip to Guadalajara and the Lake Chapala town of Ajijic while we were waiting for them. Old Town Guadalajara was delightful, with a rich European style and pleasant weather. Nearby Tonala produces just about every product you'll see at a Mexican arts & crafts shop; Tlaquepaque has a mellower tone with more upscale shops; near the lake of Chapala (which has receded about a mile!) is Ajijic (pronounced "A-HEE-hic"), home for many retired U.S. and Canadian citizens.
The Primera Plus busses are top of the line, delivering us in style to the richness of Guadalajara.
Click here for more about our trip to the Guadalajara area.
Land Trip: Careyes
After Wayne and Nora arrived in Puerto Vallarta, we had the chance to travel by automobile with them for a delightful trip south to Barra de Navidad and back. This gave us an opportunity to see El Tuito, have lunch at La Mirador before showing off the Grand Bay Hotel to our visitors. After an overnight stay at the Posada Tonala and breakfast at Martin's in La Manzanilla, we headed north tot Careyes, a small anchorage we had by-passed in Gemini. The lush greenery in the area and lunch at the luxurious hotel combined into a fantasy-like day. Then we waddled back to P.V., where we even had the pleasure of entertaining Wayne's parents, Gene and Nora Lee, with cocktails in the cockpit one evening.
Nora and Wayne enjoy the El Tuito Plaza and marvel at the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad.
We all enjoyed the lush scenery along the way.
The Careyes Hotel
After a night at La Manzanilla, we get to entertain Wayne, Nora, Gene and Nora Lee in Puerto Vallarta
Again, it's not ALL fun & games. Our engine room is fairly accessible from below, but the cockpit floor must be lifted to expose larger areas for any really serious work. Here is a peek at Les as he prepares to wiggle his way into the engine space and replace the alternator bracket. Diane, ever-helpful apprentice, sneaks below to take one last snapshot from inside the aft cabin.
Some things you don't anticipate, like the fickle breezes that tease you at night and the challenge of doing laundry at a remote anchorage. This 4-way windscoop sewn by Marsha on Loup de Mer provides some relief from the heat, funneling even the slightest breeze from any angle into Gemini's forward hatch. And the hand-rotated clothes-washer uses pressure to get clothes remarkable clean. Lastly, Rebecca's announcement that we'd be grandparents prompted a flurry of activity, one of which has given Diane a fun hobby during the single-sideband radio nets!
Click here to see other examples of Gemini at work.
Cruisers have a lot in common and frequently feel like long-time friends, in spite of the relatively brief encounters we have with each other.
Joe and Jackie from Marna Lynn sacrificed their peaceful night at anchor to join us at the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad for drinks and dinner. On a sadder note, Scarlett O'Hara departed in May to return to the States and refit their boat (and their bank account) before going across the Pacific. Knowing that this was more than just another excuse for a party, we bid them a proper adieu aboard In the Mood, where Donna and Dwight hosted a party for John and Renee, including close friends Maureen & Riley of Alouette de Mer and Barbara and Joe/Archie of Maverick.
Click here for more photos of cruising friends.
It's difficult to describe the peacefulness on the water, but watching the sun set typifies these moments, and provides a happy way to say "Goodbye" to each segment of our journey as we look forward to new adventures.
Next Leg: Central America
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