Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bahia Chamela

We have finally left La Cruz and Banderas Bay, our home for the last 3 and half weeks.  We had a great stay and really liked La Cruz and the surrounding area.  Our stay there, however, was much longer than we wanted due to a few boat issues that needed to be addressed.

The worst of the boat issues is that our inverter/charger decided that it was time to die.  Nothing we did would bring it back to life.  We had only our solar panels and the diesel engine to keep our batteries charged.  The solar panels did a pretty good job, but left us short by about 30 amps each day.  With a 400 amps battery bank you can only go so far before you have to fire up the engine to recharge.  We had to do something quick to make the repair.

In the end we ordered up a replacement inverter/charger from Amazon, had it shipped to our condo in Seattle and Paul cashed in some frequent flyer miles to fly home to retrieve it.  The trip was highly successful on many levels.  Not only was he able to pick up the inverter/charger, but he was able to buy a replacement water pump for our air conditioning unit that had failed a few weeks back, he bought a Honda generator to help us stay up on our battery charging while at anchor, picked up a laundry list of other miscellaneous parts and things and was able to renew his tourist visa upon re-entering Mexico.  All is good and the boat electrical system is back and performing as it should.

While Paul was gone, Janet made a quick trip into Sayulita one day, went to the Sunday market and volunteered to crew on sv Pied a Mer, a 37’ catamaran from the Portland area for a sailing regatta out on the bay.  She had a great time while he was gone, but was glad to have him back with all the goodies, especially the chocolate from Theo’s Chocolate in Seattle.

All of that behind us, it was time to move on.  We headed out of Banderas Bay at about 4 PM in the afternoon for Chemela, about 90 miles or so south.  The plan was for an overnight passage, arriving at around noon the next day.  Even though winds were light as we headed out of the marina in La Cruz, by the time we were just a few miles off, the winds cranked up to about 23 knots.  We had sails up and were making a good 6.5 knots on a close reach.  To reduce the heal of the boat we reduced sails by putting in the first reef.  We rounded Cabo Corrientes around midnight with winds now only in the low teens.  The reef came out and we sailed for a few more hours until the wind dropped off to less than 5 knots.  At that point we fired up the motor and made our way into Chamela.

We stayed two nights in Chamela.  Swimming off the boat was the highlight.  The water here along the Costalegre (Happy Coast) is a consistent 80 degrees.  Paul used the opportunity to do a little bottom cleaning.  It had been about a month since it was last done and there was a fair amount of growth starting to pop up here and there.

The weather was so nice we stayed out in the cockpit one night and had movie night.  We pulled up a couple of episodes of Dexter and watched them outside.  It felt like going to a drive in.  The moon was up and nearly full.  Dolphins were swimming around the boat, occasionally snorting and blowing.  It was a great evening.

On day two, our friends John and Sue on sv Wizard arrived and motored over for a visit.  We hooked a ride with them to shore along with Don from sv Distraction who we stopped along the way to say hi and he jumped into the dinghy with us.  Not much to town, but we did have a fabulous lunch at Manuelitas, a small beach side palapa restaurant.  A full plate of garlic shrimp and rice each for about $200 pesos ($15 USD).  On a short walk into town we found an abarrote (small grocery store) and bought beer and eggs to restock the cupboards.

The Mexican Navy was out and about during our stay and at one point came motoring by as we were swimming next to the boat.  They are a pretty ominous sight with their big gray ship, guns and such.  Our wave to say hello was greeted with a friendly wave back.

All in all, we had a very relaxing time while in Chamela.

Before arriving in Chamela, we were greeted with an
amazing sun rise, one of the cool things about
night passages.
We also had some great sun sets while at anchor in

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

San Sebastian de Oeste

While in La Cruz we went on a tour to the mining town of San Sabastian. The group was small, 9 adults including the tour leader. All of us were cruisers and a good time was had en route discussing boat problems and solutions, sharing anchorage information and in general enjoying the company. The tour leader was a gringo lady who has lived in La Cruz for 20 years or more. She shared her knowledge of the area and discussed changes that had occurred over time. We stopped to see a pyramid site just recently discovered within town. To the untrained eye it looks like a pile of rocks. The experts now declare it a site of historical significance. Halfway up the mountains, about 2000 ft we stopped at a plantation which in its day was a major working site for the selling of silver ore. Since the 1960s the working hacienda has served as a very secret hideaway for the stars of Hollywood. Such names as John Houston and his leading ladies of the cinema relaxed here while shooting movies. The hacienda had wonderful lwooded grounds somewhat overgrown but very lush with a lot of citrus and flowers.

Further on up the road we stopped for lunch at a local cocina. The lunch was prearranged and everything was prepared from scratch. We had the standard chips and salsa followed by tortillas and Mexican cheese quesadillas. This was followed by rice, beans and a mole chicken that was unlike any mole I had ever tasted. You could really pick out the layers in the sauce. The chicken was exceptionally moist as well. We had agua fresca and beer for our drinks. The price for the lunch was 110 peso (a little less than $10.00 US) Now that we were completely stuffed we drove on to San Sabastian.

San Sabastian is a silver mining town which has been declared a cultural site. The mines have been shut down for several years and the population now is about 200 or less. The average age of resident is 60+. The town is important from an epidemiological perspective because the residents live well beyond the national average.  The residents just recently acquired electricity. The town is traditionally painted white with red borders around the buildings foundation. Homes have covered porches and businesses generally do not. Roofs are red tile. The tile shape is the result of the clay being laid over the workers thigh while still soft. This is why the tiles are all a little different size. The homes are constructed of adobe and sit on cobblestone foundations to preserve the adobe. The streets are narrow and cobblestone. The town is unspoiled and probably is now as it was for generations. The mining companies in Canada have recently worked with the Mexican government and located a huge silver lode in the region. Rumor is that the huge amount of silver that came out of these mines in San Sabastian’s heyday were miniscule compared to what is still there. As such there were many workers doing research while we hiked up to the mine shafts. I expect in a year or so the place will not be the same. We were able to enter one of the main mine shafts and hike back in about 100 yards. It is hard to believe the community had men and children as young as 5 or 6 years old working to bring out the ore by hand.

Gated entrance to hacienda. So much silver was sold here the hacienda was built like a fortress

Entrance to the living quarters

Garden at the hacienda

Hacienda living quarters

Road and sidewalk

Streets of San Sabastian

Local girls being girls

San Sabastian church 

Deep in the mine

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

La Cruz - Banderas Bay

We'll, here we are in La Cruz, Mexico in the beautiful state of Nayarit.  We've been here now for about 10 days and it looks like we'll be here for at least another two weeks.  We did stop in Punta Mita on our way here, but only spent a quick night and moved on to La Cruz.

The reason for our extended stay is that one of the other cruisers announced on the net that he was off to San Diego for a couple of weeks and that he would be happy to bring back anything you might want as long as it fit in his suitcase.  Janet and I put our heads together and found a few things we needed that you just can't buy here in Mexico.  We delivered our list, gave him about $1,300 pesos (about $110 US dollars) and now we wait for his return on the 18th of January.  We of course aren't complaining.  First we are able to get the things we need and second La Cruz, Bucerias, Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta are wonderful towns to hang out.

We've discovered the thriving music scene here in La Cruz.  Quite amazing for an out of the way small town with cobble stone and dirt streets.  The bands and musicians are not recognizable to any of us, but the music they produce would rival any that professional groups in the states are putting out.  All in very small, intimate settings with cheap cold beers on top of that.

The La Cruz market on Sundays is amazing as well.  If you are familiar with the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle, then you know what I mean when I say that this market is every bit as good and perhaps even better when it comes to arts and crafts.  Fresh greens, gourmet tamales, Greek yogurt (not available in Mexico for some reason), fresh baked bread are just some of the things we've scarfed up.  We've been to the market both of the Sundays of our stay and will likely hit it a couple more times before we depart.

Bucerias is a few miles up the road and is a wonderful town full of art galleries, coffee shops and eateries.  There are two sides to Bucerias, the up scale, almost Carmel like side and then, just across the kissing bridge, a very Mexican side with booth after booth of locally made crafts, complete with sales people who do almost anything to lure you into their shop.  You get very familiar with the phrase, "Almost free".

We made a run to Costco the other day with friends from sv Zoe.  What was supposed to be a bus ride into Puerto Vallarta and then another bus ride right past the store, turned into quite an adventure.  We ended up taking three buses and walking about a mile or so.  This after asking just about every person we saw on the street how to get to Costco.  The problem was that everyone we asked gave us different directions to the store.  Very confusing and frustrating, but we took it all in stride and eventually made it there.  The store is essentially the same as in the states and we were able to stock up some things that you can't usually find at some of the Mexican grocery stores.

We still have yet to make it into Puerto Vallarta, but it is on our list for the next few days or so.  Since we are here for awhile, we may take a day to just go out and sail on the bay and maybe another couple of days to make a run over to Yalapa on the other side of the bay.  There is reported to be a wonderful hike up to a waterfall and just a beautiful place to visit.  And then, somewhere around the 20th of the month, we will head south around Cabo Corrientes for yet more adventure.

Rounding Punta Mita into Banderas Bay.
Paul in the La Cruz park.
The La Cruz anchorage.
Here we are at the Mexican market in Bucerias.