Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Life on the Big Bay

Solar Wind with her maximum Flopper Stopper swell protection

The Bay of Banderas has been “home” for 3 weeks now. It covers about 25 square miles, like a sea really. The coastline has only two good holding anchorages. We have explored it to the extent that we want and tomorrow we plan to head north as far as the town of San Blas. We’re ready for a change, but will come back here in a week or so to pick up the exhaust pipe that we hope (just now) has shipped from Ontario to the Marina here at La Cruz via UPS. Hope to get this update posted before we travel, and CHECK BACK TO OUR THANKSGIVING POSTING AS WE WERE ABLE TO ADD SOME PHOTOS!

We took some time after Thanksgiving to motor the perimeter of the bay --  south to Yelapa, Las Animas, and Boca de Tomatlan (of which we have great memories from our family trip 4 years ago). It was fun to see these palapa-lined beaches from the water. We ended the day at Marina Vallarta, in the heart of downtown PV, thinking we’d rent a slip. Unable to hail anyone on a Saturday afternoon at the marina office (gone for the weekend was all we could glean), we ended up “camping out” in a slip by bribing the security guard to let us stay. We got some diesel, cleaned up and took a taxi into town. Not wanting to do proper research, we took a flyer and asked the cab driver to take us to eat comida mexicana, no muy carro, pero mucho authentico. We got two out of three. Good Mexican food and not too expensive, but Pipi’s, just off the malecon, turned out to be an authentic tourist concession -- cousin to Farrell’s ice-cream parlor, with the world’s biggest margaritas and burritos, and an endless stream of singing waiters and English speakers. But truly a happy place, fun evening, and a safe bet. We hope Pipi’s continues to thrive.

After dinner we walked the malecon and had the privilege of watching a group of Huichol natives in traditional costume, do their pole dance on the beach—amazing and beautiful. They climb a 100’ pole and hang by their ankles from ropes as they unwind to land on the ground.

We spent the next four nights at the north end of the bay, anchored off Punta Mita.  Again, an easy anchorage with good holding, but plenty of swell. We frequented the shoreline restaurants for a dinner, a breakfast, and several afternoon beverages. We found it easy to make friends with the waiters, and in one case with the owner. They appreciated our business as the cafes were mostly empty. We asked if they were worried about the lack of business but they all said it would be picking up. We walked into town, did some grocery shopping, and saw the spill-over effects of its location right on the edge of a huge Four Seasons golfing resort complex. One day we tried to take a bus to Sayulita on the other side of the point, but learned that the only bus route involved a ride 20 miles in the other direction, changing busses to came back past where we started, then reversing for the return. We changed the day trip into a bus ride to The Mega (everything store) to provision. While we were sorry not to have seen Sayulita, we had 30 minute world-class rollercoaster rides rounding hairpin turns overlooking the ocean for $1 each way!

Punta Mita is known as a good surfing beach for beginners, so many Mexican families come to spend vacations there too. We soon learned the many different ways to say, “No thank you,” to the vendors who are peddling everything from silver jewelry, to cheap sunglasses, hammocks, cigars and woodcarving.  Some we spoke our Spanglish with and a couple we bought something from.  Lanham is a sucker for giving some pesos “para su ninos” even though we aren’t interested in buying. All in all, they seem like kind and hard-working salespeople – not obnoxiously pushy. But it continues to bring to the forefront all that we have as we visit this not quite second-world country.

Another thing we (almost) acquired at Punta Mita was a cockroach infestation! We used the kayaks for our trips to the beach and one afternoon we stacked them on a boulder bulkhead rather than leaving them on the sandy beach. Upon return we noticed immediately that they were crawling with small roaches. Dreading what we thought was the inevitable bug on the boat, we took the kayaks into waste deep water and did our best to drown them all, paddled back and only boarded the Solar Wind after bathing ourselves in the ocean. Comet bleach on the swim step and on the lines tying the kayaks off the boat was the best we could do to try to discourage any hitchers from boarding overnight. The next day we took the kayaks back on shore and baked them in the sun on the hot sand (staying away from those dark moist rocks). Pretty sure we got off easy with none on board and have since stocked up on some spray and little traps, assuring that we will never need them!

We headed back to La Cruz for a night of cleaning up in the marina. The day was spent with laundry (delivery and pick up that is, something I could enjoy getting used to), a major boat washing & polishing (really salty and grimy – but looking good now), and oil purchasing. I wanted to spend another day helping out at the Biblioteca and had made some flash card for games that I wanted deliver. We had a wonderful dinner at yet another restaurant near the marina – highlighted by a dozen raw oysters that we watched them pick up right out front in the bay. They were wonderful fresh tasting oysters, and while we are only speculating, we fear that they may be what did us both in for 3 days of Montezuma’s revenge and malaise. We came back out to anchor and slept it off – just now starting back on solid food. The boat’s clean and we’re cleaned out too!

We have been “on the hook” all but two nights in the last month. We have gotten into some sort of rhythm – not needing to go ashore everyday, maybe only every other or every third day. (Good thing we don’t have a boat dog – or maybe that’s what we need to get us off our duffs). When I think about land-based life, it is hard to imagine being happy and staying busy in essentially a 12 x 40 foot room with the contact of one other person (even one I like) for more that 24 hours at a stretch. Somehow, being on the boat makes that possible. Maybe it’s because we are always moving (rolling, rocking, bouncing, jostling, jiggling, and being massaged). It’s not always a welcome sensation, but it’s not just sitting still. It’s moving, without going anywhere.

We have both been reading – a lot. Will probably hit the cruiser’s book exchange at Yaya’s Café (a whole wall worth of books for the taking) to drop off and refurbish our library. In addition, I had a couple days with the sewing machine out – the salon became a literal “sweat” shop – while I sewed a replacement window shadescreen for one that I lost overboard while boat washing, and fitted removable side curtains to the cockpit shade to give more sun protection. Notice the shady theme – we’re not in Seattle anymore, Todo.

Replacement window screen

More cockpit shade

I was really bummed about losing the window shadescreen as it was part of a matching set that outfitted all the windows on the boat. We had no idea how useful they were while living in the northwest. They allow good light in, full visibility out, and reduce the temperature inside a lot! We had some extra mismatched swatches of screen that we debated about bringing along – and almost cut from the onboard stock. So glad we kept that little bit of extra weight and had all the materials on hand to sew a replacement. Also in the category of ongoing improvements, Lanham replaced all the reefing points – the ties that hold the bottom folds of the mainsail in place against the boom when we want to reduce sail in bigger winds. They got a lot of use on our way down the coast and they are now all longer, all stronger, and ready for more action.
New reefing points

And yes, in case you are wondering if we went diving to try to retrieve the sunken window cover, we did. The visibility in the marina was about 6 inches and the water very unappealing (gets my second vote on what may have made us ill). We had already had some experience with the poor visibility underwater out in the anchorage. In a geezer moment, Lanham dove into the water for a swim with his glasses still on his face. They went down quickly! We used our Man-Overboard button on the GPS to mark the spot and then next day out came all the scuba gear. Everything worked great getting to the bottom and he could have stayed for hours, but the search for a pair of glasses was by feel only.  Getting to the vicinity might be possible, seeing anything on the bottom was not. Fortunately, they were his oldest glasses and he has others, which now have a dedicated croakie that lives around his neck for spontaneous swimming. Since the scuba tank was open and all the gear on, the bottom of the boat got a good scrub and a couple of zincs were replaced.

By the way… pistol shrimp don’t seem to live in Banderas Bay… and for you doubting Thomases (Keith and others), our new theory about the bubbling, clicking noise is that it may have been the sound of the growing colonies of the tiny tube worms with calcified shells that had attached to the underside of the hull, particularly around all the intake vents. That is if the sound of scrubbing them off is the same as the sound of their building up. Anyway, all is quiet in the night – or at least we can’t hear anything amiss over the distant techno-beat at the various discotheques around the bay that stay open until 4 am.

So, we hope to head out tomorrow – in search of more pristine waters and perhaps less populated anchorages. Whatever the next spot is like we think we can expect a fresh breeze, more birds and fish to watch, and another sunset tomorrow – we do feel lucky. 


  1. so glad to have a fresh post. I am fascinated with your travels and love the details you put into your posts. Wow.. it is so amazing to hear about. there would be no way to catch up on all of this after the journey, huh?

  2. Yes! So glad to get the news and know you're off again to a new area... AND that the part is on its way! Also, your screen looks great! Congrats and hope the new anchorage and sights are great!
    Keep on enjoying...

  3. Another great blog entry, Melinda, thank you! I suppose you are on your way again. I'm glad you're away from that very populated area. Dirty water...yish.....
    Love, Weeze