West Coast and Beyond

N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

12th Day At Sea--Are we There Yet?

April 18, 2011

Have you ever tried to sleep in your washing machine?  On the agitate cycle?

   That in a nutshell describes conditions during Jan’s Off-watch sleep 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. shift last night.  With 18 to 20 knot winds and waves hitting Touch Rain on her quarter from two directions, there was enough careening and noise to lead to quite an amazing dream, in fact a nightmare

   In the depths of sleep, all the noises and movements combined in sufficient proportion to replicate a run-away freight train.  The metallic noises generated by the halyards running through the mast—and the gravity working against a body laying prone mid-ships—continued the fantasy/ While her most unreachable sub-conscious continued to remember the surroundings—“I must get up and get dressed and help Michael”—the more immediate brain continued to hear the sounds of a train going at least 90 miles an hour and totally out of control.  The brakeman tried to stop the locomotive—the loud squawks as the brakes worked to hold the train on the rails, all rang into the night. All sounds replicated by the tremendous stresses on a boat careening down 10-foot swells at up to 8.5 knots.

   Jan woke enough to call out anxiously—“what’s wrong—what’s happening”—No response. Michael was topsides adjusting sails and out of reach of her voice. Finally she sat up and shouted “Michael What is the Matter?” His very quick answer, “Absolutely nothing. You must have had a dream, we are sailing along stunningly well. Just bumped 8 knots, after I had reduced sail. I’ll reduce it again. Go back to sleep.”

   The rest of the watch went without sleep, feeling her body continue to pound against the sofa, feeling Jordy lying on her head for comfort. Jan lay prone unable to either sleep or get up until Michael spoke again an hour later. “Are you getting up?”—Sorry Michael, 20 minutes late for shift change. I am on my way.

   Last evening had begun so promisingly. It was calm and flat enough for both of us to sit in the cockpit at the table w/Jordy and eat our . We also shared a beer — what a highlight!  The waves around us had beautiful white water breaking at the tops and periodically you could see a wonderful deep greenish/blue water rolling in the waves, very like that tremendous blue you see in the bergies in Alaska.  Or as Michael preferred to believe, an indication that we were headed to tropical waters.

   Progress, however. We passed 1/2 way during my watch around 2:00 a.m. last night. I am such a stickler for chartable progress, I need a measurable point such as this to make me believe we may actually get there..

   At this point it looks like we may get there around Easter Sunday. I just hope that the holiday doesn’t prevent our checking in and being allowed to leave the boat.  We have a vet scheduled to come down to the boat and give Jordy her required health exam.

   Touch Rain continues to make a good average speed.  We rarely drop below 5.5 knots and are still not using our main sail much.  We have 2/3 of the diesel in our tank, as well as 2 jerry cans topsides.  Drinking water is at least 1/2 capacity, or 50 of our 100 gallons.  Michael is using the spinnaker pole to help the sail stay taut. Speeding along last night on evening watch, I told him the sea conditions remind me of the white water we were so cautious going through when we came home via Deception Pass in Canada.

   This morning we have had our first sun and blue skies in awhile.  We continue to travel a bit flatter and Jan is able to utilize knifes in the galley without risk of committing hari kari.  Conditions are a bit smoother today—perhaps I can at least comb my hair—if not give it a wash!

   Maybe this is the beginning of the glorious trade wind dream.

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

10th day at Sea-All is Well

April 15, 2011

20 degrees 32 minutes North

130 degrees 0 minutes West

 

  Exhilarating!  In spite of sloppy sea conditions-TouchRain continues to make good time towards Hawaii….as we write this blog winds are sending us in speeds varying from 6 knots to 7.5. The swell even seems to have moved a bit east, pushing us in the right direction rather than just sideways. Now that we have logged over 1000 miles—we start to believe flatter, warmer conditions have GOT to be just around the corner.

   Michael is still struggling to fix the battery failure issue—he juggled the windless battery into the house bank-hoping to pick up the charge power. However, it now appears the windlass battery, the newest one by a decade, may have been the problem. It was tied to the bank and apparently wouldn’t take a charge.  Any sun right now would certainly give our solar a much needed boost.

   The wind seems to kick up at night, making sleep for the off-watch crew member more difficult—it’s hard to sleep when your body is bouncing aloft the mattress.  Last night it felt like the boat was a skier—taking some pretty tough moguls.

   Watches continue to go well—Michael does his night watches sitting here below—and goes up top every 15 minutes or so to look around.  Jan stays in the cockpit with three shirts—a beany, fleece and a windbreaker—wrapped in a blanket—it’s cold but refreshing.  The wind seems to kick up at night—so its pretty exhilarating…For safety reasons we wear a tether which is tied to the boat—and several times last night—Michael yelled out to Jan—are you tied in? 

   It’s pretty amazing.  Jan is learning a lot more about sailing from her watches—especially the intricacies of adjusting the wind vane steering, called a monitor.  Thank goodness for Monty—this trip would be undoable without his steadiness!  We intend to send the Scanmar companyh a note of thanks when we get to Hawaii.

  After doing so well going on the foredeck, Jordy has just gotten too terrified to go out there.  I cannot say I blame her.  We have to walk along the deck, me tied to the boat, crawling down the handrails, and her tied to me.  Once she gets there it’s hard for her to balance and she slides around with waves breaking over her head. Poor dog. 

  The last few nights she has pooped on a carpet outside our bathroom—I have told her that is acceptable.  I know the gymnastics involved in arching to poop make her feel more precarious. I just would prefer she not add pee smell to our aroma  below—so far she has mostly kept up her side of the bargain—but we have had a couple of failures—poor dog.  She has really earned a long, run on the beach when we get to Hawaii. Luckily, we have a vet standing by in Hilow and there shouldn’t be any need for quarantine.  

  Well time to start working on dinner—pork roast, potatoes, cabbage and pineapple—perhaps some bread pudding. Once you are running that oven, you may as well add a dessert!

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Fifth Day at Sea and All is Well!

April 09, 2011

Latitude is 21 degrees 16 minutes north and 117 degrees 23 minutes west. Boat speed 4 to 5 knots wind speed 9 knots (fuel use to date-14 gallons – we carry 50 in the tank and another 10 in jugs) Well, this is more like it. Although we still haven’t located those trade winds, we do seem to have left the bashing/confused seas behind us. Winds and our speed have both been positive-we’ve been averaging more than 100 miles a day-but life at sea up to this point has been a blur of watches, naps, and struggling to remain upright when moving around the boat.   

Meals have been, by necessity simple, since the cook has to retain one hand for the boat at all times and serving meals anywhere but on the gimbaled stove surface has been a challenge. Jordy has finally become a full fledged sea going hound-and now anxiously lets one of us know when she wants to go forward on the bow to void. Most of her day, however, is still spent “cat” napping.

Jan rates the success of the day by the number of chores she has been able to accomplish. Number One-sponge baths and shampoos. There is nothing to make one feel more human than actually being clean! We also have managed to do some laundry, make water, rotate our eggs and vexes and actually had French toast and bacon for breakfast-in all a civilized day. May not sound like much to those of you whose feet are firmly planted on soil, but a huge accomplishment compared to the degree of heel we have been living with over the past four days.

Have we experienced any extreme fear to date? None to speak of. The worst moment was when Jan, sleeping in the v-berth noticed copious amounts of water had doused the port side of the berth. This was the side in green water for the past 4 days. Admittedly there was a moment when the word “sinking” entered her brain, but happily it turned out, that Michael had simply failed to mention the hatch had not been dogged tight and been leaking.

Stay tuned-if we should ever locate those mythical trade winds-this could actually turn into fun! Ha ! ha!

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Speeding along at 7 knots

April 07, 2011

22.33 North 113.03 West After beating into the wind for two days and doing about 4 knots, the wind has clocked northwest and we are speeding along at more than 7 knots to Hawaii. The wind shift allowed us to fall off the wind and open up the sails. A more comfortable ride and much faster. At 4-plus knots, it would take us three weeks to get to Hawaii. At 7 knots, it is closer to two weeks. Of course, we don’t expect to average anything close to 7 knots for the next 2,300 miles. But we are a happier ship.

For those of you who wish, you can follow our location by Googling “Yotreps.” This is a New Zealand site (Pangolin) that reports vessel positions. We update about once a day. Look under our call sign – WDF3813.

Right now the wind has piped up to about 20 knots. That is pretty exciting, but still within the secure range for this boat. Our little Ericson 38 – yes, believe it or not, we are one of the smaller boats of those leaping across the Pacific. One boat, a 50+ foot Jenneau, carries 1,000 gallons of diesel and has a washer and dryer. It could motor all the way to Hawaii and arrive with clean shirts and underwear. By contrast, we carry about 60 gallons and have a range of about 500 miles on diesel. That means we have to sail as much as possible. Of course, it is also much more comfortable sailing. The pressure on the sails adds to the boats stability. It doesn’t wobble so much and there is more power to get through the big swells.

Also, this was a good day for Jordy. She finally remembered how to pee on the foredeck. Jan reports that once Jordy made up her mind to go forward she was unstoppable. After being clipped onto the jacklines via Jan’s lifejacket she basically dragged Jan to the foredeck. With large waves breaking over both of them on the bow she peed and took a shower at the same time! Must be a great relief after two days. Jan took her forward while I was sleeping. So you know, Jan’s foot must be feeling better as well.

That’s all for now.

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Off to Sea -- Finally

April 05, 2011

Well, the off-shore leg to Hawaii feels like it has officially begun. Only 2540 miles to go. We are motoring off the bottom of the Baja. Once we round the next point we’ll be looking for wind to take us all the way. Folks who have made this trip before talk fondly of the tradewinds-and trips made with a very limited number of tacks.

We left Puerto Vallarta on March 31st. Due to excessively light winds in that area, we elected to motor sail to San Jose del Cabos-allowing ourselves the opportunity to fuel up one more time. We ended up having a great sail, TouchRain demonstrating a remarkable ability to sail with the wind coming on the nose. We averaged 6 knots plus for the last 24 hours, quite a comfortable ride really. We have settled into a route of two-hour watches until midnight and then two four-hour shifts taking us to daylight. Jordy continues to consider the 4:00 a.m. shift to be her responsibility also and gets up with Jan to take her watch. Thank goodness for ipods-listening to This American Life and downloads such as David Sedaris Life at Carnegie Hall makes the hours speed by.

We enjoyed our stay at Puerto Los Cabos. They don’t have quite the facilities described in Charley’s Charts-clearly this marina is still a work in progress and the pool and tennis courts turned out to be figment of someone’s dream. The restrooms are modular and the restaurant uses a freight container as its kitchen. Food, however, was great and there are also several nice cantinas within walking distance. We both agree we will miss our $3 beers with lime.

Of all the restaurants in Mexico, Jordy has chosen Barefoot Tommy’s Cantina her #1. They have a separate MUTT menu. She chose hot dog and ice water and was delighted to be served her hotdogs in a magnificent crock. She has really enjoyed the hospitality of Mexican cantinas and routinely is provided a bowl of water, but this took the cake! It’s going to be a shock to her system to find herself excluded from any portion of her humans’ lives. She is used to being with us 24/7.

We enjoyed the opportunity to walk through San Jose Del Cabo again-it’s really a nice little town-quite unlike downtown Cabo San Lucas-which is party central. Last night we had our last dinner off of the boat for the next few weeks.We enjoyed the meal with some new friends from the Wauquiez 38, Sage. They plan to leave tomorrow for Hawaii.

Jan finished up the last of the fresh food provisioning at the local Soriana. The (severely) reduced in size fridge was a total shock, but without the motor the solar panels simply cannot keep up with the wattage required to keep the full size fridge going. We have met some people who simply turn off their fridges after the first two-three days, but hope that won’t prove to be necessary. Jan’s says she feels like she has been cramming and studying for the big game and the time has arrived. Hopefully we have everything required to eat and drink well over the next few weeks-it’s going to be interesting to have no ability to “pick up” one more item.

Have no fear for Jordy. We have hired a vet to provide her with a health exam upon arrival and she should avoid any quarantine.

Next stop Hilo, Hawaii. Only 2,535 miles left to go.

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

One last fuel stop

April 02, 2011

We formally checked out of Mexico yesterday in Puerto Vallarta. We are headed toward San Jose del Cabo over on the Baja to refuel one last time and leave the coast with full tanks. San Jose del Cabo is about 250 miles closer to Hawaii, and the trade winds. Since there is not really much going on off the coast in terms of wind near Puerto Vallarta, it just made sense to move toward our destination in a way that would give us as much fuel as possible for the 2,500+ nautical mile, three-week trip.

This blog entry is, in fact, our first one done via our boat’s Single Sideband (High Frequency) radio. We are midway between Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo, which is a 300-mile trip. Last night was a bash into light winds and short, but steep seas. We were able to motor sail at about six knots. Today the wind is even more on the nose and we are motoring about five knots, slowed a bit by an adverse current.

Jan and I had a wonderful dinner Monday with my (Michael’s) brother Geoffrey and his wife Debbie. They chose a magical restaurant with an paralleled view, wonderful food, and the most charming mariachi band outside of Guadalajara. Last night, we had a great conversation via radio with brother-in-law Randall, who is sailing from the Galapagos to Hawaii with his wife Alison.

Small world.

Jordy is doing well. She is such a sea dog. She wanted to say “woof” to all of you.

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Sailing on Concrete?

March 13, 2011

One of my mother’s favorite expressions has always been “The best laid plans of mice and man, sadly go astray.”  I returned to Puerto Vallarta from Olympia on March 21, physiologically prepared to spend the next week involved in the hectic task of provisioning TouchRain in preparation of our off-shore trip to Hawaii.  I had braved all the concerned inquiries regarding the length of the passage, which is estimated to take around 21 days.  I had given myself a good talking to along the lines of “other people do it, it can’t be so bad”.  Even after my mental preparation, I still found myself making the round of farewells—it sure seemed like a long time before I would be back in touch…..then……

 

Returning to PV, I discovered that another trite saying had become reality—here you can take your choice between:

“Boat” is  another name for Bring on Another Thousand, or

Cruising, an opportunity to work on your boat in exotic ports…..

 

When Michael had divers clean the boat bottom in preparation of leaving, the diver reported that the bottom paint was failing miserably on the keel.  Not a situation to ignore.  Our mileage and speed to Hawaii would be significantly compromised and we would face the need to do the work in Hawaii at  twice the price.  To the boat yard we went!  The hidden bonus would be the ability to have a survey while in the yard—necessary to line up some off-shore boat insurance.

 

After recuperating from my broken foot sufficiently to climb onto the boat easily, I now found myself with climbing a 15-foot ladder to get on and off.  No problem, I would simply find a hotel to stay for the 3 days scheduled in the boatyard.  No luck—between the crowds of spring break and that fact that Mexican hotels are even more reluctant to allow dogs than those in the US—we were stuck staying on the boat. 

 

Details of our first day/night on the boat shouldn’t be entered here, it’s sufficient to say that the combination of the impossible climb ,hot, hot days walking and standing on tarmac,  no power, no water, and an onslaught of vicious man (and woman) killing mosquitoes resulted in a severe Jan melt-down.  I think I was ready for off-shore—but simply didn’t have the resilience to handle these new obstacles…..Surprising to think that after five months of cruising our off-shore adventure almost ended in a Mexican Boatyard!

 

Luckily everything looks much better after a long swim and a cool shower—after going AWOL for an afternoon I discovered the sweet daytime deal offered by the Westin Resort.  For the princely sum of 350 pesos ($32.00 dollars), I could spend the entire day using all of the facilities, including pools, spas, and the beach.  Added bonus—I received a 300 peso credit at the restaurant and could spend the day eating and drinking all but around $5.00 of the daily fee.  Such a deal!  Turned out the two days I spent at the Westin Resort is as close as I have come to being on vacation the past five months.  I guess this proves that another one of those sayings is true.

 

“Every cloud DOES have a silver lining”.

 

Three days later—just like clockwork—Touch Rain was back in the water good as new.

 

The trip is back on—estimated departure time is now Wednesday, March 30th—which coincidently happens to be our wedding anniversary—guess that’s appropriate……

 

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

All's well here after Tsunami

March 12, 2011

Not much damage here. Boat owners had to decide what to do — stay in the marinas and risk the surge or go out into deeper water. Given that the only downside of going out to deeper water was inconvenience — if you did not want to get out anyway — My dog, Jordy, and I took the boat out for what we thought would just be a day sail on Banderas Bay. It was a lovely sailing day, as it almost always is down here, with winds up to about 18 knots. We sailed back and forth, out and in for five hours, covering about 25 miles.

During that time, the tsunami touched off a series of surge and drain cycles in the marina. The water went up and down up to 6-10 feet during some the period, rising and falling in about 10 minutes. One person described it as like being on an elevator, steady up and down without any shocks or tugs. That said, the entrances to the various marinas turned into white water and whirlpools.

Out on the deeper water, there was not a hint of the powerful wave. The movement just slid underneath and invisible to us. Amazing. These things only show their force when the move into shallow waters — arrive near landfall.

In the end, the powers that be closed all traffic in or out of marinas for the night. That meant our area, La Cruz, became a very busy anchorage. It is the only anchorage in this very large bay. The event also caused cancellation of the second day’s races in the Banderas Bay Regatta, a very big thing down here. They did race Thursday and finished up today, Saturday. I imagine they are handing out awards as I write this.

Jordy and I were one of the boats at anchor. We put the hook down an hour before sunset, then heard on the radio that the port captain had agreed to let the marina reopen. But by the time we got the anchor up and got in line to enter, they had closed it again — this time for the night — citing another major surge that made the entrance dangerous. So, we anchored again, ate dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed.

As for damage, several slips were wiped out at the La Cruz marina, but there was no boat damage. Much different than the scenes we saw up north in Crescent City and Santa Cruz, where there was a lot of damage. Many folks spent the day after the event glued to CNN, watching the response to the tragedy unfold in Japan.

All is well. Fair sailing.

Michael

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Another Month in Paradise

March 06, 2011

We’ve been in Mexico since late October and, as of today, not a drop of rain has fallen on us or Touch Rain. I understand this is normal – rainy time comes in May – but I don’t understand how all the palms can still be green.

It has been a relatively lazy time here in Banderas Bay, at least for Michael. He completed a few small projects on the boat, including adding a swivel to the anchor, upgrading the software on our chart plotter, adjusting the auto pilot, etc. At this rate, the boat will be ready for cruising when we return to Olympia in September.

The big items were a visit from Mark and Kathy Swartout – with a wonderful sail across the bay – and a trip south for the two of us and Jordy. We stopped at Chamela, Tenacatita, and Barra de Navidad. Down and back involved overnighters, but very different ones. Going south, the wind was light at our back or on the beam, making for some nice sailing and a fair bit of motoring. Back was a 150-mile slog upwind, bashing into six foot seas every seven seconds in about 15-22 knot winds.

There was some excitement during the return. Aside from the  bashing to windward, we ran low on fuel about 80 miles south of PV and focused on sailing as the  boats around us tried to motor through the waves. Sailing was better – faster and more comfortable, even if the route was a bit longer. Then again, we did not have a lot of choices.

It is a sailboat, afterall.

Despite spending eight straight hours at the helm watching the waves break over the bow, I (Michael) failed to connect the dots. Water on bow…chain runs through opening to anchor locker…water in anchor locker. Oops. Michael forgot to check the anchor lock bilge pump until Jan shouted – better look at the water in the (deeply heeled) head. So I spent the next hour unloading buckets of water. No harm, no foul. We needed to go through all the lockers, clean them, and see what we had before heading off to Hawaii, anyway.

Now, for the more pleasant side of cruising.

En route, we were overtaken by hundreds of porpoises. They would leap through the waves in groups of a dozen – ahead, behind and to the side of us. Literally as far as the eye could see, the top of every wave was another dolphin.  We also saw several humpback whales, flapping their tails to the delight of those who stopped to watch.

Chemala

Lots of wet landings.  Thinking we had licked wet landings, we headed into shore.  Jan grabbed Jordy and the backpack and Michael stepped off the stern of the dingy.  An unseen wave snuck in and knocked both of us to our knees.  Somehow between us we managed to hang on to four items—Jordy’s leash, Jan’s cane, Michael’s backpack and the dingy line.  Scrambling to our feet soaked head to foot—we saw an entire group of fisherman looking at us.  Much to their credit they managed not to laugh out loud—but you could tell it was close.  Luckily the closest beachfront restaurant had no issue serving food to three drowned rats…..

Tenacatita

Long before we arrived, we had read about the pampa restaurants along the shore.  This area has one of the most well known snorkeling beaches in the area.  (called the Aquarium).  Unfortunately this area has been closed off to tourists due to a local property dispute—but there is still a fun jungle ride through the mangroves.  After navigating the ocean waves to gain access to the inlet we rode our dingy through the mangroves for a good hour or so.  We went too late in the day to see much wildlife, but Jan managed to catch a glimpse of a baby croc.  The most dangerous sight seen?—a dingy coming around the corner on full plane—the woman on board was too busy lighting TWO cigarettes to even see us before we collided.  Thanks goodness we were both in inflatables. 

Also thank goodness for dingy wheels—we ended up hauling our dingy around a lot trying to find the best debarcation point.  We have managed to master landings (fairly well)—but choosing your moment to push off in surf is still a bit uncertain.  The reality is that the surf always looks smoother 200 yards further down the beach…The best story we heard was a couple where the wife got half way out to the boat before realizing that her husband had fallen off the dingy as they pushed off from shore. 

Barra de Navidad is a really beautiful spot. Charming town, great lagoon to anchor in, and pangas (water taxis) at your beck and call. Now I know why a lot of people go for a day and stay a month. Initially we anchored at Melaque AKA Rocky Melaque, but when 25-knot winds were forecast moved over to the lagoon at Barra. The lagoon has a very narrow, curvy dredged route, a bit perilous to go in and out of. 

Our friend Joel, from Forty Love graciously met us at the entrance and we followed his dingy into the anchorage.  There were 62 vessels at anchorage our second day there.  Highlights of Barra—The French Baker who comes out to the anchorage every morning selling baguettes and pastries, and the Sands Hotel which allows cruisers to use all of their facilities, including pool side facilities for no charge.  Happy Hour daily noon to 7:00 p.m.  Two pina coladas for 40 pesos (approximately $3.50)! We could have stayed another month….

Cihuatlan

After meeting up with Joel and Chris from Forty Love—they told us about a private tennis club which allowed guests to play on their clay courts for 100 pesos per player.  This involved a 40-minute bus ride from Barra to Cituatlan.  Michael, Chris and Joel played with a fellow from Montreal while Jordy and Jan hung out in the shade.  Very civilized place to relax and toss Jordy’s ball for a couple of hours.

La Cruz is the cruiser’s hangout. It is 5-10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta on the bay. There are a lot of medium priced restaurants, taco and barbecue chicken stands and live music pretty much every night. A lot of the musicians definitely grew up in the sixties. There is a lot of white hair, but they still can play. This small town makes Olympia seem like a wasteland when it comes to live music.

 

Jordy’s Perilous Leap!

One might think that the most dangerous spots for a dog on a sailing adventure would be while underway off shore….not so for Jordy.  Her most dangerous moment came when she was safely on land-in La Cruz.  Jan was walking close to the dingy dock and tiring of having Jordy retrieve the ball on concrete—started rolling the ball along the ground beside an irrigation ditch.  This worked quite well for a time.  Jordy happily ran to retrieve the ball returning each time.

In the blink of an eye—the ball took a hard bounce off of a rock—and before either Jan or Jordy had a second to analyze the situation—Jordy FLEW across the (small) concrete wall eager to retrieve her ball. 

Imagine both Jan’s and Jordy’s surprise to discover Jordy had jumped over an 8 foot wall into a concrete drainage ditch.  Fearing severe spleen damage at the very least —Jan struggled to find a place to rescue Jordy.  Some locals passing by showed her how to walk down the sea wall to obtain access to the ditch.  Jordy, meantime, stayed (standing) exactly where she had landed—not quite sure what had happened…Happy ending, I am still not sure why—but no damage occurred to limbs or organs.  Jan’s theory—that the padding of her life jacket saved her from more serious injury.  Lesson #1—no throwing balls in dangerous places—obviously getting the ball back took precedent over staying alive….

 

Jan heads back to Olympia today for two weeks. We still plan to leave for Hawaii by the end of March.

 

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N 20° 41' W 105° 18'

Puerto Vallarta to La Cruz

January 17, 2011

We’ve spent the last month in Banderas Bay, where Puerto Vallarta is located. Jan flew back to Olympia for Christmas and New Years, while I had the pleasure of having my daughter, Ellie, and her paramour, Alex, for the holidays. We spent much of the time at Paradise Village Marina, where the beach was a two minute walk away. That meant Jordy got a lot of beach and ball playing time with the youngsters and I (Michael) did my first boogie boarding on the mellow surf.

At Paradise there are a series of natural areas, complete with crocodiles, although we did not see any. We did see iguanas sunning themselves 15 feet up in the trees and a zillion pelicans. The greater Kiskadees also charmed us. They are so pretty and tame enough to follow us from boat to boat to allow a closer look.

We also visited the very charming town of Yelapa where the walks are wonderful and the moorings very, very rolly. We also visited Los Arcos and Las Tres Marietas, where Ellie and Alex did some snorkeling. They promised us some log entries to fill in this period. Until then, I’d note that we saw dozens of whales on the way to the three marias. One humpback surfaced right next to us and then dove under our rudder, so close I could have touched him (or her, not sure how to tell the sexes). This caused Ellie to exclaim, “Oh Sh….!” I was thinking the same thing.

After Jan returned January 8, Touch Rain revisited Yelapa with our cruising buddies Dennis and Mary Lee Millard, s/v Lardo, out of the Bay Area of California.

 

Yelapa is so fantastically magical it is almost impossible to capture with words.  Unlike many of the areas of Mexico we have visited up to now—Yelapa is not desert in nature at all, instead it is filled with tropical, lush vegetation!  Brightly colored butterflies flit from flower to flower—varieties currently missing in the States. 

The small village is poised around a little river leading to a waterfall.  Passable roads are non-existent and provisioning appears to be done with an assortment of pack tools and critters-most houses having at least one horse, donkey or mule parked in their backyard. 

We stood to the side on the path while quads and wheel barrows carried bricks up the hillside to complete work on half-finished houses. Apparently the upriver people and the oceanside villagers engage in some pretty heavy duty, serious football (soccer) rivalries.

 

 Around the bay itself pangas perform duties as mini-cargo ships—carrying huge stacks of food and equipment to the small hotels which surround the bay.  People and provisions alike, mostly arrive by boat from Puerto Vallarta—our two sailing vessels and one small power boat were the only outside visitors who didn’t arrive by panga the days we were there.  At our arrival in the bay, Rafael in his panga greeted us and tied us to a mooring buoy—anchoring is apparently not very secure as it is very deep. 

The fee for a night at mooring and rides to and from the island-200 pesos!  We took a walk around the small river valley, up one side, across a bridge and down the other. What an amazing walk.  The feeling is more like Polynesia than Mexico—domestic varieties of flowers gone wild in the hillsides—impatiens, trumpet flowers as big as your hand—climbing 30 feet into the palm trees. 

Everyone around are houses crafted from blocks and tiles—quite impressive villas alternating with tiny little shacks.  Almost every home seems to do restaurant duty at least one night a week.  We ended up having dinner at a little place called the Oasis—which looked like a private patio—for the first hour we four were their only guests.  Jordy allowed to fetch her ball across the vast expansive of lawn as we ate our dinner.

 

Lessons learned in Yelapa?—Of course:

Beware if you don’t eat at the restaurant owned by the family of the panga you rode in on.  Our trip to shore with Rafael had begun in a very easy going friendly manner.  He performed his docking art very impressively—picking up enough to speed to virtually land his boat up on the beach-so none of us had to even get our feet wet.  After quick drinks at his family restaurant (which he assured us had the best dinners in town) we headed off on our walk.  Rafael brushing aside our offers to pay at that time—saying we could easily pay when he returned us to our boats later.  By six o’clock when he discovered us side tracked by the inviting vista of eating at Oasis.  I suspect that the current lack of tourism made our defection quite personal.  He asked for our payments and said that another panga could return us to our boats. 

Lesson number two, pangas aren’t readily available in small villages—it was only due to Dennis’ extreme determination—he went from house to house for an hour and a half before tracking down someone willing to return us to our boats—it took the grand sum of 600 pesos to even interest anyone is “rescuing” us.  We spent a bit of time on the beach considering finding a lounge chair to pass the night!  As it turned out we might have gotten more sleep—the only thing that kept us from another night in this charming location—was the lack of sleep from bouncing around in the waves all night.

We are now anchored on the northern part of the bay at La Cruz. This is a cruiser’s mecca, as opposed to Paradise Marina, which catered to 50 to 150-foot fishing and motor yachts. We’ve moved from millionaires to beach bums in one easy sail. They say the music is great here. We’ll report later. We expect to be here until Jan heads back to Olympia January 22 and maybe even when she returns in February. At that time, we’d like to head south a bit before preparing for our departure from Mexico in mid-late March.

Right now, we are leaning toward heading from Mexico to Hawaii, about 2600 miles and a three-week trip. We hope to meet up with  brother in law and sister in law, Randall and Allison, there. Jan will return to Washington to be at her daughters’ graduation from Vet School at WSU. Robyn and Nicki have just passed their national veterinary boards, whoopee!  When Jan returns from the graduation, we will probably head to southeast Alaska before coming down the inside passage and ending our trip in September.

That’s the plan, anyway. Subject to change, of course.

 

 

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