Thursday, March 1, 2007

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle


La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico

We've been living in the lap of luxury at anchor in La Cruz. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it has been great being back here. Synchrony has left for further points North and we were very sad to see them go but sure we will see them again back in Berkeley one of these days. Sonadora is in PV getting herself all seaworthy again. Then they will start their slog back to California. Our friends on Pacific Jade are currently here but will be taking off in a day or two for Mazatlan where they will leave Pacific Jade for the summer. Stardancer is due in here this weekend - either La Cruz or Punta Mita - we'll meet them at one of these two places. So the past couple of weeks have been a series of last hurrahs and goodbyes. Hopefully we'll be seeing our friends again.

We've been finishing up the few little projects we have left on Pacifica, but basically she was ready to go when we left Berkeley - so that makes this time in La Cruz a lot less stressful. So far it seems like there aren't that many boats heading to Hawaii this year. There is one leaving on April 1st, and another leaving around the 9th of April. We will be in contact with both of them via email and the radio if possible. We're still thinking about a departure around mid April, so we'll be close to Cutthroat (the one leaving on the 9th) but they are a 52 ft boat so I'm sure they will be speeding away from us. The puddle jumpers will also be out there and we'll be able to check into their nets while we can hear them.

Most of the time, I'm excited about the trip and ready, but sometimes I get scared. Though I also got that feeling about driving on the freeway and I definitely think I'll be safer crossing the ocean than I was on the freeway. I'll just probably be more tired.

One thing we've been wanting to tell folks at home about are the bus musicians. You see, usually when getting on the bus (at least longer ones such as the one between La Cruz and PV), the bus driver will let a musician come aboard who will play 3 songs then ask for tips, then get off the bus. We're not sure if they pay for the trip, I would guess not - but that's not the point of my story. The point is that these guys are some of the best musicians we've heard here. So many times Greg has gotten out a few pesos when they come aboard, but ends up dipping in for more when we hear how good they are. Some of them are more organized and have a sort of band with a singer, guitar, and some percussion. It really makes the bus ride more enjoyable.

But the bus entertainment doesn't stop with music, all sort of vendors come aboard to sell their wares - drinks, snacks, books, even DVDs (which you are forced to watch some of). It's all fun and there is very low pressure in all of it.

This is the main bus stop we use. This taco stand has yummy tacos, but our favorite is just across the street - Carnitas tacos for 10 pesos each....

As Herb and Juliett call it...The GOD tree. It's breathtaking to see this yellow tree in full bloom as you walk down the street.

A common sight - just the placement of the doggie lumps can change...sometime lying across the road, under a parked car, under a tree, or stretching across the sidewalk. They will just lay there and let you step over them. Unless Matey is with us - then they want to smell her butt then go back to laying around (after maybe barking).

About a week or so ago I helped out at the spay/neuter clinic in Mezcales. What an experience!!!! These dogs, although they were very loved (so they were the luckier ones) were full of fleas, ticks and lice and some had very sad stories. Like the 11 month old who was hit by a car 4 months ago which resulted in a fractured pelvis and this clinic was the first medical care she received. The owner of this dog was crying when she dropped her and her 4 siblings off to be fixed because she thought maybe they would be put to sleep. I know she loved her, but I don't understand the lack of medical care, there are vets everywhere. It does make me sad to see the state these dogs live in. Anyway, I was glad to be able to help for a couple of days. I only stayed 2 days because I started to get afraid of what I might bring home to Matey. Since our trip to Hawaii is so close, I was afraid to put her at risk. I know I could prevent a lot by bleaching my shoes before coming on the boat and segregating my clothes to be washed - but it's really hard on a boat . It might just be me whining, or maybe I just wasn't ready to go back to work again :-)

The operating table. There were 4 tables going at once at peak times with one additional table as a prep table. All tongues were tied to the side which made for humorous "coming outs" in recovery where I was most of the time.

De-ticking - this was one area I was careful to avoid, don't like those little bugs at all....

Waiting.... Notice the little bits of tape on their heads. Everyone was given a number and they wore it on the tops of their heads.

My most favorite job was puppy watch. I had five puppies to watch as they ran around, ate and pooped and pee'd...

A cat after it's flea bath - it may not look like his lucky day, but he was picked up by one of the volunteers in the morning. He was lying in the road with a pit bull coming up on him and he didn't even have the energy to move. Luckily the volunteer was driving down the road at the time and couldn't let the dog get him - so he got swooped up and brought to the clinic. He wasn't even healthy enough to have surgery. I suspect he will be one of the ones that find themselves in a rescue organization in the states and will have a comfy rest of his life.

This is one of the docs sitting with her patient till she was safely awakish. This picture was taken as the owner of a dog, who was a little testy (as in he tried to bite his owner when he dropped him off), was getting his dog out of a neighboring crate. The harness this guy had for this dog was similar to a horse saddle with all the straps.

Before Synchrony left, we took a ride with them to Nuevo Vallarta to top off their water tanks and visit the swap meet. The swap meet was a bit unspectacular (except for the wonderful fresh chocolate chip cookies a couple of cruiser kids decided to sell), and the topping off of the water just got us chased away (after Synchrony got their tanks filled and they washed off the salt grime). But, ohhhh....the sail home.....

We got to fly Big Red, and mother nature even got us to turn around for more sailing before returning to the anchorage. Juliett made us a fabulous lunch and we were listening to some good sea shanties - there were some happy people aboard Synchrony that afternoon.

Herb and BIG RED.....

A few days ago a singlehander in the anchorage put on a puppet show for all who wanted to come. I guess we've been spoiled because usually it's the larger boats (like catamarans) that invite the whole anchorage over, so we were surprised when the host was in the 28 foot range. But what fun!!! The star was a shark dressed as Roy Orbison (Roy Orbishark). They had music, singing, bubbles, and paper balls to throw. And all of this in great company. We had a blast. (Remember, cruiser on a budget - our standard may be lower than yours***).

Puppet Stars...

More puppets in action

The gathering on the back of s/v Ann Marie.

Last night we went with Pacific Jade to see a group we spoke about last time we were here called Tatewari. It was pretty good - the guy who plays this special percussion box was off doing work in San Francisco, so it was a little lacking. We are hoping he'll be back in town by the next Thursday night (they play weekly). They play in a great Huichol art cafe - and Len and Carol, we are planning to let you experience this.

Today I've had a lazy day puttering around the boat while Greg headed into PV to meet with a guy about boning up his celestial navigation skills. This morning I was just talking to him about being the dinghy driver more often so I can get more comfortable with the whole beach landing thing. So after breakfast, I was the one who got into the dinghy first, got the engine started and pulled in the stern anchor (we were anchored off the pier). Fast forward a few hours, after I dropped Greg off at the dock so he could go off to his lessons. The wind was picking up - which if I'm aboard has me infected with Gopher's disease (I pop my head up frequently to assess my surroundings). This is not only to check Pacifica's position, but also those around us. Anyway, I noticed a lone dinghy heading into shore toward the rocky surf. Now that's not right, so I immediately jumped into "Matey's Ride" (our dinghy) and zoomed over to bring the lone rider to our boat. Since he had no name, I had to make an announcement on the VHF radio for it's owner to claim him (of course after my adrenaline died down - it was pretty windy and I had to go closer than I would have liked to the surf line, not to mention dinghying upwind in a blow while towing another dinghy all by myself). It was quickly claimed and returned, but it made for an exciting morning on Pacifica.

Tenacatita to La Cruz


La Cruz, Mexico

So Last we left you we were in Tenacatita about to depart for Chamela. There was talk about the weather window that was about to close and a number of boats left to catch it. Unfortunately it closed before expected and they had 15-20 in steep seas. I know 15-20 does not sound like that big a deal to many of you, but it's all about the extremely steep waves when it goes against the strong current. Luckily Synchrony agreed with us and decided to not pass up Chamela and more playing before taking our chance with Cabo Corrientes.

I'd like to let everyone know a little about how we've been spending our days. Most every morning we tune into the Amigo net and pray for a net controller that we can hear. With the SSB/Ham radio it is easy to hear stations that are very close and very far, but the signals of an area in between skips right over us. About 8:15 we listen to the weather from Don Anderson on s/v Summer Passage. He really does an amazing job for cruisers, but sometimes his forecasts sound like they would be well suited for a drinking game - those who have heard him, know what I mean: "It's going to be one honking blow, drink", "down in the Tuanapec on Monday it's going to start honking", drink. He volunteers to give the weather on 2 Radio Nets for the Pacific Mexican Coast and he monitors specific frequencies 3 times a day for boats that are crossing the Pacific for routing advice. It really is amazing the amount of time he puts in for us cruisers. But he's still funny...

Here's our radio station. The black one is the SSB and the white one is the VHF.

Anyway, we left Tenacatita for a little stop at Careyes which is a tiny little cove about halfway up to Chamela. It made for an extremely short ride, but was worth the stop. We finally had an anchorage to ourselves except for Synchrony who decided to also stop (but we didn't mind them since they are our friends). We had to anchor bow and stern so that we could stay pointed into the bouncy swell and keep us off the rocks. Since it was so small (there was only room for about maybe 3 boats anchored bow and stern - but it would be tight) and the waves were crashing down the rocky sides all night, we only stayed one night. But it was gorgeous, lots of colorful homes on the steep cliffs surrounding the Bay. We were right in front of an old Club Med location so we had a good but small private beach to romp on. We also got to partially walk around the old site, most of it was being torn down to make room for the owners private residence.

Pacifica motoring enroute to Careyes

Beautiful blue house in the cove. There is a pass to a second cove behind the island.

This is the second little cove.

Entrance to the cove is between the island on the left and the end of the reef in the center of the photo. One tricky thing about this anchorage is as you are leaving and entering, right in the center is another rock that is about 2 feet below the surface and of course, unmarked. So the idea is to favor the island side instead of the reef side.

Frothy surface. As the sea started to build, so did the crashing and the froth flowing into the cove.

Matey in the foam. When we first came up to the foam, she tried to jump out the dinghy thinking it was sand, luckily doggies have built in handles (their tail).

A lot of the houses have stairways down to the water.

Colorful houses

Pacifica loving life.

Another 'interesting' happening is when we were anchoring. Now while we anchor bow and stern, there is a lot of walking back and forth from the wheel to the bow to the stern anchor - Greg and I move quickly but we switch around jobs a fair amount - and it all needs to be done pretty snappy. On one of the passes we made Greg looks at me and calmly states, "After we're done with this, I think I broke my toe so we're going to have to deal with this." and points down to his toe which is sitting out at a 45 degree angle from the rest of his toes. Of course me as the loving wife looks down and replies, "That's gross!". By this time, Synchrony had launched their dinghy and Herb was motoring around in case we needed him while he waited for us to get settled before they came in and did the same (we didn't need him for the record). I mentioned to him about Greg's toe to see if they had any experience with that sort of thing (Juliet is a 100 ton licensed sea captain). Fortunately Juliet is also a Wilderness First Responder, so cool - she could come over after she's done anchoring and help with the toe. By this time we figured it was just dislocated. So I got out our medical books and read the procedure to Greg about "popping' it back in place. This is the start of the tequila shots. After about 3 Juliet was ready for the 'procedure'. After a little twist and pull and a loud pop, the toe was looking more like his friends. Then he was taped to his neighboring buddy and besides for a little pain when Greg bumps him, he's doing good.

One of these toes is doing his own thing, one of these toes is not like the other ones...

Dr DiGiovanni whipped that toe back into place!

The next day after a leisurely lunch and a little exploring we departed for Chamela. All this time we have been hoping for clear water to swim in, but all we seem to be getting is water with some sort of algae bloom which makes it look like you are swimming in green tea. Chamela was the same and somewhat rolly to boot. We spent one night at the main anchorage with the rest of the herd, then spent 2 at the little islands. Synchrony spent the whole time at the islands and had some time alone and some with us. They left a day ahead of us so we did get some time solo in an anchorage. It was also pretty cool because one island had a great running beach for Matey with gorgeous teal blue tropical beach water. The other island had a rocky beach for beachcombing and a hike which lead through booby hangouts. Matey couldn't come on the island hikes because of all the booby birds. Not a big deal, she got to romp on the beach.

Pacifica crew in Chamela.

Beach at Chamela Islands

I love those Booby birds!!!! They remind me of BIG BIRD.

Cactus Art... (care of Greg)

More Cactus Art (Care of Greg)

Pacifica at anchor.

After a couple of days, the weather was forecasted to lay down a little so we took the chance to head on out to Ipala or if the sea was right to go around Corrientes. The sea gods were smiling on us - we had a fabulous sail. We were on a close reach in about 10 kts of wind in fairly flat seas - and we had about a knot of current with us. We were making a good 7+ kts the whole way. As we got closer to Corrientes, the wind died so we ended up motor sailing in lumpy seas. Around 10 pm we dropped the anchor in La Cruz. As we were coming in, it felt like we were coming home. So now we are in our last port before we take off West for Hawaii.

Now we are focused on getting odds and ends done around the boat to get us ready for the crossing. And we are really enjoying being internet junkies again (we have a great connection from the anchorage).

UPDATE: Synchrony is now in La Cruz also,as are our friends Matt and April on Sonadora (and Conner and Tanner also). Matt and April are one of the nicest couples and unfortunately their claim to fame along the Gold Coast has been that they were hit in the wee hours of the morning by a speeding panga. Yes, they were at anchor and I cannot even begin to imagine how scary that must have been both for them and their little doggies.

UPDATE AGAIN: So, I usually try to stay away from giving a daily accounting of what we do - it just seems like that can get a little boring. But today was an interesting day. First of all it was very productive, we got 2 major things done and in only 8 hours (future employers, I'll be even more productive in the States - 2 things a day is not my US standard :-))

Our objectives were to get our ICOM radio sent off to the US to be repaired and meet with a radio examiner about Greg's General Radio Classification. Sounds simple, but...this is Mexico.

First off we set out to catch the bus to PV, it took us 3 trips from the boat to the beach to make sure we had all our stuff, humph! Then we take 2 buses to the recommended UPS shipping store. When we walked in and asked if the had packing material, the answer was no, but they ran in the back to find a box. We weren't all that comfortable with shipping the $1200 radio with no packing material, so off we go to find another shipping store. We then took a bus to a Mailboxes, Etc. which had packing material and could ship via UPS. BUT we could save money if we paid in cash. SO, off we go to find a money machine, we're in luck since there is one on the corner. After waiting in line, both ATMs crash and run out of money, so another person in line directs us to another ATM and after we wait in line again, we have our cash and return to Mailboxes, Etc.

Whew, we finally get done with 30 minutes to spare before our 3pm meeting time with radio dude. So we bebop down to the bus stop (which is usually some random corner where you see people standing around). Since we were wondering if we could get a direct bus to Nuevo Vallarta, we stopped some Gringo guy in crocs (that's the true sign of a cruiser, croc sandals - no one else down here wears them) and asked him about the bus. Answer, yep, 2 buses later we found ourselves only 30 minutes late.

Then, Greg started filling out paperwork with radio guy and I went off in the air-conditioned mall in search of a photocopier. When I got the copies of the needed paperwork in hand, I returned to the Vallarta YC to finish up Greg's radio stuff.

By this time it is about 4:30 and we are starving, so we set off to scarf down some calories at McDonalds, followed by a $3.50 US single Baskin Robbins ice cream cone. We wanted two cones, but Greg was outraged at $3.50 for a single cone. We are used to paying no more then 1 buck down here. Even the most diehard regress to eating American food.

You would think the 2 bus ride back to La Cruz would be pretty uneventful? Nope, we had to get off of the first bus on the main highway and sprint across the 4 lane highway like we were in a real life frogger game. I couldn't believe it and was giggling as we darted across with about 20 other people. Mexico has a great bus system and you'd this the bus stop portion of it would be a little more organized. Now this is a main highway - cars and trucks flying by you. When we got to the other side, everyone had their rides in other buses that stopped, then Greg and I were left standing alone on the side of the road (which is really the end of the merge lane) hoping our bus comes by. Luckily after only a couple of minutes our bus came and the rest of the trip was smooth.

Another piece of info - I will be helping out at a spay/neuter clinic a couple of towns away the 8th-12th of this Month. I'm pretty excited about it, Greg and I stopped by the teaching clinic today where American vets were teaching Mexican vets about better ways to do surgery. Of course it's still done in a large shed - anyone can walk up (we watched a surgery go on today) and there are flies sitting on the patient dog's nose. But it seems to me to be a great thing they are doing - there really are a lot of dogs around here, and the locals are just starting to learn the importance of spaying/neutering their pets.