Thursday, November 22, 2012

Muy agradecido

Happy Thanksgiving All – we are happily and humidly hanging on the hook, here at La Cruz. 

We are cooking in! with a local theme – seafood. There are turkey dinners (catering to us yatistes) in some of the restaurants in town, but a visit to the Mercado Pescado yesterday morning has led us to marinating shrimp, defrosting Mahi Mahi steaks, cooking up a batch of cayote (a squash that crosses a zuccini with a pear), and topping it off with pumpkin bread baked yesterday. We plan a day of cooking, reading, floating, and maybe a phone call or two to family. Thinking of all our friends and appreciating your enthusiasm for our year away.

On Monday, it will already be two weeks that we have been off the town of La Cruz. We have enjoyed the relaxation, scouted out all the most authentic places in town, and are ready to move on. We will wait to formulate a plan about how/when/where? to receive the exhaust pipe that we want to carry as a spare for the distance ahead. So no departure date yet…

Photos will help paint a picture of some of the highlights of our week. (Things like laundry, fridge defrosting, and boat washing didn’t make the photo file.)

A highlight last weekend was a horseback ride before we left the beach at Bucerias. That’s “Tequilla” on the right and “Platano” on the left. Antonio, the horse owner was happy to let us run them. What a treat! The only thing that was missing were our long pants – we came away a little raw after a 30 minute ride.
A great stretch of beach for riding

We bought one of these beautiful hand turned painted bowls.
The birds go crazy when the fisherman brought their nets into the beach
at Bucerias
The courtyard at Yaya's and sweet resident dog
Next, we had a Saturday night dinner reservation at YaYa’s, back in La Cruz. The dinner was so-so, but we were really there for the Cuban dance band. We danced together, and joined the owner’s daughter when she led us in the Cha-cha-cha. Melinda even got to dance with the bartender who left his post regularly to show his smooth style on the dance floor. The band was a trio – bongo drums, keyboard, and vocalist. They added to the top of recorded music – but a decent sound system and great fun!

Rick's cuban dance band

The Chachacha

The dancing bartender

Some of my little friends, Carlos and Kamus
playing "Memoria" with the flashcard I made.
On Monday and Wednesday nights, I volunteered at the little outdoor night school in town. There is another American who teaches English regularly to older kids and teenagers. I was there to help out with any younger kids who showed up. The first night I had two, a 6 and an 8 year old. We got to know each other and did some math story problems, a little singing and lots of laughing. They were surprised that I didn’t know more Spanish! They loved drawing, counting, and learning some English words. The next night, 3 different kids came. We made flash card for parts of the body and play a memory game, along with some more singing and movement. They were like kids everywhere – loved to get moving, made it playful, and beamed when I praised them for learning new things. If were going to stay here a longer time, I would commit to more sessions. I am thinking about ways to help send school supplies to Angelica and Sergio who run the program. Their dream is to have a mobile library in addition to the evening classes. Continuity seems important. They said they had enough supplies in November through March, while the cruisers are here to donate, but the rest of the year was tough for them.

The older kids working on English lessons

These guys were so proud of the puzzles they worked. They insisted that I take their picture

This town has definitely had much impact from the building of the fancy marina – for better and probably for worse. We suspect that most of the locals will be bought out in the next 10 years. Apparently the marina owns much of the waterfront and hopes to develop it with hotels, etc.

These kids were playing a popular street game that I haven't quite
figured out -- a cross between Twiddly-Winks and Pokeman

That’s a quick up-date. I’m going to take the dinghy into the marina and try to post this today. 
HAPPY TURKEY DAY ALL – Feeling especially thankful for today’s slight breeze, for our flopper-stoppers, and such an amazing travel opportunity!  Love, M & L

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Staying put… for now

We have been exploring the town of La Cruz and enjoying the free anchorage outside the marina. We are in contact with the one human on the planet who knows and sells parts for our boutique Beemer engine. He is working on shipping a new exhaust pipe to a dealer or yacht broker in PV. In the meantime our patch is working fine, so technically we could move on… but maybe we like the excuse to stay put a bit, and La Cruz is a fun place to do it.

Very cool place to snorkel at Isla Tres Marietas
We took the day on Thursday for a field trip – about 2 hours NW to the islands of Las Tres Marietas – for a day sail and some primo snorkeling! We got there about 9 (3 hours before the tourist party boats). We set our anchor where “the book” advised and headed in toward the rocky beach, used our dinghy anchor and saw some gorgeous fish of all hues. It was a windy, and blustery sea, so the visibility was not the best, but still spectacular and relaxing. Soon we were approached by a very kind panga driver who explained (or somehow helped us understand) that anchoring was not allowed, due to the coral preservation. There were 3 buoys available (which we had assumed were for the commercial boats that would be bring the PV Adventurers). We picked up a buoy, but not until we had a huge fight to dislodge a 100-pound coral covered rock that was wedged in our Bruce anchor when we pulled it up. Oh my! Afraid we didn’t do the coral in that 30 foot spot any good.

Caves above and below the water 
So we had a relaxing day, swimming off the dinghy and boat, then a terrific speedy sail back and re-anchored here at La Cruz. We are a little way off from the bulk of the boats now. The water seems cleaner for jumping in and cooling off, and the pelicans (and their poop) are a little more of a distant source of visual entertainment. It continues to be great fun to watch the birds dive bomb for their dinner.

We have continued to explore the town, and get real familiar with the waiters at the marina bar. We tie up our dinghy at the secure marina dock for $30 pesos a day ($2.50) and can walk into town from there. On one of our evening explorations we came across an English class being taught at the Biblioteca aire libre (Free Outdoor Library). We had a chat (mostly in Spanish!) with the woman who runs it and I am signed up to help with the pequeno ninos class next Monday and Tuesday! On Monday I will help another volunteer and on Tuesday I can bring an activity to do with the kids. I’m very excited to check this out! It’s the kind of thing I am hoping to find opportunities for while on this trip. This will give me a good taste of it. The class is held at 5:30… and that’s about all I know right now. Stay tuned!

My successful excursion into making fresh salsa verde y rojo!
So, we are hanging out, maintaining the boat with daily chores (outboard motor mount improvement, chrome cleaning and polishing…), cooking with chilies, cilantro, and lime, reading up on next ports as well as our novels, and trying to stay cool. Everything is pretty moist, but we haven’t found mildew (yet?) The next challenge is finding wi-fi to get these recent ramblings out to you. We got a password and connection today, but the speed was not going to make picture uploading feasible. Ah well, we’ll try again tomorrow.

And... it's Saturday, we took a mini bus into Bucerias, found free Internet (fast!) with a bucket of beer. Here are extemporaneous photos... Lanham talking to Ellie on cell phone (hi Ellie) and Lisa -- here is a view of the beach you can walk when you get her in February!

Lanham had a visit from a this nina selling her bracelets and they made quick friends!

The Town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

These are the ritzy villas on the hill to the east side of La Cruz.

At first light on Monday we saw the mountains of Punta Mita in the distance, passed by the Islas Tres Marietas, aware of the unmarked rocks that are charted to be in the passage. Another 25 miles and we were into the Bay of Banderas by 9am. We headed to the anchorage that we have heard so much about off of the marina and town of La Cruz (de Huanacaxtle). We are well anchored with about 15 other boats. There is some swell, but not uncomfortable.

This poor guy washed up on the deck during the passage to PV
This is the breakwater just beyond which we are anchored.
The breakwater has incorporated these cool sculptural castings -- made from giant dixie cups?
One of our neighboring boats has not had human residents for quite some time it seems.
It's cool off time!

The weather is … HUMID. The sun doesn’t really break completely through the overcast sky. We both felt exhausted and spent the rest of Monday napping, resting, and staying cool by jumping in the water. At 88 degrees it barely reduces your body temperature, but the cool rinse off with the shower at the transom is refreshing. The fans in the boat are wonderful -- one in the galley, at the salon table, at each of the bunks. Again, we feel so lucky that Solar Wind came equipped for tropical cruising including the window sunscreens, fans, shade covers, etc, etc. that we might not have ever thought we would need from our NW sailing experience.

Nightly sunset over Punta Mita
By Tuesday morning we started to feel like waking up and we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the town of La Cruz on foot. With the building of a new marina, La Cruz has been discovered by cruisers, and land-based ex-pats who have been opening restaurants, charting businesses, and building colorful homes off the cobblestone streets just up from the beach. To the north are the resort areas of Salulita and Punta Mita, just to the south is the small beach town of Bucerias. and beyond, around the curve of the large bay are the lights of Puerto Vallarta. These are all connected by modern and inexpensive buses. We plan to stay at least a few more days. It is a very secure feeling anchorage (and free lodging) with the adjacent towns accessible and friendly.

A risky crossing on the Marina driveway
Here are some photos from our self-guided walking tour of La Cruz. There are so many wonderful scenes. We love the blend of old and new, of wild life and cultural life. We continue to practice our Spanish. Some days feel like we are sliding backwards, but on some level the language must be sinking in… Here is the wonderful mix that is La Cruz: